Good morning, Mr. President, Commission Members, Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen. I appreciate being given this opportunity to speak with you this morning. As you may know, I will be leaving the National Transportation Safety Board some time in the near future, and I wanted to visit with the members of ICAO to thank each of you for your assistance to and support for the Safety Board and your on-going endeavors to improve aviation safety around the world.
My association with ICAO began almost six years ago, when I attended the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Chicago Convention in Illinois in December 1994.
Since then, however, most of my communications with Air Navigation Commission (ANC) have usually been in regards to the unfortunate circumstances of an accident investigation. Over the years, I have appreciated the work done by this committee to make aviation safer. Your efforts have greatly aided the men and women of the Safety Board as they have conducted domestic aviation accident investigations and participated as Accredited Representative and Advisors in investigations conducted by other States.
You have accomplished a great deal:
- The ANC and the Accident Investigation and Prevention Section (AIG) undertook timely and efficient methods to review the AIG/99 Divisional Meeting results and to obtain State comments for final review and implementation of a revised and updated edition of Annex 13.
- You have supported the modernization of flight recorder requirements, particularly digital and video recorders. The aviation community has recognized that we now have the opportunity to improve the quality of investigations and conserve our resources if we avail ourselves of the technology available to improve our ability to acquire data. I have spoken out at every opportunity about the need for video recorders in the cockpits of our commercial aircraft. I hope that you will continue to work toward that goal. Video recordings are not a luxury - they are a necessity - as has been shown by the investigations into the Silk Air-B737, Swiss Air MD-11, Egypt Air B-767, and the Alaska Airlines MD-80 accidents.
- I want to commend your organization on the initiative taken to produce a draft ICAO Circular on the assistance to civil aviation accident victims and their families. I had the opportunity to review the circular last month at the ECAC seminar in Estonia. As you know, the Safety Board has been helping the airlines, airports, and other organizations establish compassionate programs to deal with these tragedies. ICAO's leadership on this important issue is very gratifying and will help to ensure that all of those who need such services around the world will have them.
- I also want to acknowledge your hard work to overcome resistance to the idea of a universal safety oversight assessment system. In 1999, 49 State reviews were completed and, I understand that you are having another successful year this year. The Safety Board supports this program and believes that it should be expanded to include other technical fields including State responsibilities for accident investigations conducted under Annex 13.
Before I conclude, I want to briefly mention an issue of growing concern for us all - the increasing criminalization of our aviation accident investigations. We are beginning to see more aggressive law enforcement activity in investigations around the world. I discussed this issue last week with the Bureau Enquetes-Accidents (BEA) Chief, Mr. Paul Arslanian, during his visit to the Safety Board to sign a memorandum of agreement between our two agencies.
I am sure many of you are aware of the various competing investigations currently being conducted into the Concorde accident in Paris. We have also seen this issue arise in Taiwan following the recent Singapore Airlines B-747 accident when the Singapore Airlines Captain, a Malaysian citizen, was not free to leave Taiwan after the air safety investigator's interview. And, we have seen increased law enforcement interest in a number of our investigations, including Valujet flight 592, TWA flight 800, and Alaska Airlines flight 261.
This trend toward more aggressive criminalization has the potential to affect our accident prevention efforts, limit our access to needed data, and prevent the issuance of critical safety recommendations. Obviously, we will all need to quickly find ways to ensure that both the accident prevention and judicial needs of our society are fulfilled.
The ANC continues to contribute to advances in the technical and operational development of aircraft, our understanding of human factors, communications and navigation systems, air traffic management, and accident investigation techniques. I hope that you will take a leadership role to help resolve this issue as well.
We must all work together to find solutions to this issue. The Safety Board held a 3-day symposium on this issue earlier this year and we are working with the Department of Justice to develop an agreement to protect the interests of both the aviation and judicial communities. I want to encourage the ANC and individual States to also explore solutions to this formidable problem.
Thank you very much for your efforts to make aviation safer and for inviting me here today.