|Formed||April 1, 1967|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters||490 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C.|
|Annual budget||US$>100 million (2013)|
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. In this role, the NTSB investigates and reports on aviation accidents and incidents, certain types of highway crashes, ship and marine accidents, pipeline incidents, and railroad accidents.When requested, the NTSB will assist the military and foreign governments with accident investigation. The NTSB is also in charge of investigating cases of hazardous materials releases that occur during transportation. The agency is based in Washington, D.C. It has four regional offices, located in Anchorage, Alaska; Denver, Colorado; Ashburn, Virginia; and Seattle, Washington. The agency also operates a national training center at its Ashburn facility.
The origin of the NTSB was in the Air Commerce Act of 1926, which assigned the United States Department of Commerce responsibility for investigating domestic aviation accidents.Before the NTSB, the FAA (then the CAA) independence was questioned as it was investigating itself and would be biased to find external faults, coalescing with the 1931 crash killing Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne. The USA's first "independent" Air Safety Board was established in 1938: it lasted only fourteen months. In 1940, this authority was transferred to the Civil Aeronautics Board's newly formed Bureau of Aviation Safety.
In 1967, Congress created a separate cabinet-level Department of Transportation, which among other things established the Federal Aviation Administration as an agency under the DOT.At the same time, the NTSB was established as an independent agency which absorbed the Bureau of Aviation Safety's responsibilities. However, from 1967 to 1975, the NTSB reported to the DOT for administrative purposes, while conducting investigations into the Federal Aviation Administration, also a DOT agency.
To avoid any conflict, Congress passed the Independent Safety Board Act, and on April 1, 1975, the NTSB became a fully independent agency. As of 2015 [update] , the NTSB has investigated over 140,000 aviation incidents and several thousand surface transportation incidents.
Formally, the "National Transportation Safety Board" refers to a five-manager investigative board whose five members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. As of 2017 [update] , Robert Sumwalt is chairman of the NTSB.No more than three of the five members may be from the same political party. One of the five board members is nominated as the Chairman by the President and then approved by the Senate for a fixed 2-year term; another is designated as vice-chairman and becomes acting chairman when there is no formal chairman. This board is authorized by Congress under Chapter 11, Title 49 of the United States Code to investigate civil aviation, highway, marine, pipeline, and railroad accidents and incidents. This five-member board is authorized to establish and manage separate sub-offices for highway, marine, aviation, railroad, pipeline, and hazardous materials investigations. Collectively, "National Transportation Safety Board", the "Safety Board" or "NTSB" is used to refer to the entire investigative agency established and managed by this five-member board.
Since its creation, the NTSB's primary mission has been "to determine the probable cause of transportation accidents and incidents and to formulate safety recommendations to improve transportation safety (in the USA)".Based on the results of investigations within its jurisdiction, the NTSB issues formal safety recommendations to agencies and institutions with the power to implement those recommendations. The NTSB considers safety recommendations to be its primary tool for preventing future civil transportation accidents. However, the NTSB does not have the authority to enforce its safety recommendations.
The NTSB is the lead agency in the investigation of a civil transportation accident or incident within its sphere. An investigation of a major accident within the United States typically starts with the creation of a "go team," composed of specialists in fields relating to the incident who are rapidly deployed to the incident location.The "go team" can have as few as three people or as many as a dozen, depending on the nature of the incident. Following the investigation, the agency may then choose to hold public hearings on the issue. Ultimately, it will publish a final report which may include safety recommendations based on its findings. The NTSB has no legal authority to implement or impose its recommendations. Its recommendations are often implemented by regulators at the federal or state level, or individual transportation companies.
Significant investigations conducted by the NTSB in all modes of transportation in recent years include the collapse of the I-35W highway bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the collision between two transit trains in Washington, D.C.; the pipeline explosion that destroyed much of a neighborhood in San Bruno, California; the sinking of an amphibious vessel in Philadelphia; and the crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, New York.
In order to conduct its investigations, the NTSB operates under the "party system", which utilizes the support and participation of industry and labor representatives with expertise specifically useful to its investigation. These individuals or organizations may be invited by the NTSB to become parties to the investigation, and participate under the supervision of the NTSB.The NTSB has discretion over which organizations it allows to participate. Only individuals with relevant technical expertise are allowed to represent an organization in an investigation, and attorneys and insurance investigators are prohibited by law from participating. For example, if an aircraft manufacturer's employee has technical knowledge of the aircraft model involved, he or she may represent the manufacturer in an aircraft investigation.
The NTSB considers the party system crucial to the investigative process, as it provides the NTSB with access to individuals with specialized expertise relevant to a particular investigation.However, use of the party system is not without controversy. The NTSB invited The Boeing Company to participate as a party to the investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747, in 1996. While the NTSB relied on Boeing's sharing of expertise, it was later determined that Boeing had withheld from the NTSB a study of military versions of the 747 that investigated flammable vapor combustion in the center fuel tank. Boeing had told the NTSB that it had no studies proving or disproving the vapor combustion theory. In response to political pressure after the Boeing incident, the NTSB commissioned the nonprofit Rand Corporation to conduct an independent study of the NTSB's aircraft investigation process.
In 2000, Rand published its report, which concluded that the party system is "a key component of the NTSB investigative process" and that participant parties "are uniquely able to provide essential information about aircraft design and manufacture, airline operations, or functioning of [the National Airspace System] that simply cannot be obtained elsewhere". 31 However, Rand also found conflicts of interest inherent in the party system "may, in some instances, threaten the integrity of the NTSB investigative process". :30 The Rand study recommended that the NTSB reduce its reliance on party representatives and make greater use of independent investigators, including from NASA, the Department of Defense, government research laboratories, and universities. :31–32As of 2014 [update] , the NTSB has not adopted these recommendations and instead continues to rely on the party system.:
After the two accidents leading to the 2019 Boeing 737 MAX groundings, on September 26 the NTSB recommended the FAA to update the long-accepted but inadequate assumptions about pilots reactions in failure scenarios, and to review certification shortcomings, notably for the MCAS flight-control law.
Following the Denver engine failure incident, Boeing announced the grounding of a dozen Boeing 777s globally. The NTSB reported during its initial probe that two fan blades were fractured in the engine of the United Airlines Flight 328, while the remaining blades displayed damage to the tips and leading edges. There were no casualties reported in the incident.
As of 2014 [update] , the NTSB has issued about 14,000 safety recommendations in its history, 73 percent of which have been adopted in whole or in part by the entities to which they were directed. Starting in 1990, the NTSB has annually published a "Most Wanted List" which highlights safety recommendations that the NTSB believes would provide the most significant — and sometimes immediate — benefit to the traveling public.
Among transportation safety improvements brought about or inspired by NTSB recommendations:
A little-known responsibility of the NTSB is that it serves as a court of appeals for airmen, aircraft mechanics, certificated aviation-related companies and mariners who have their licenses suspended or revoked by the FAA or the Coast Guard. The NTSB employs administrative law judges which initially hear all appeals, and the administrative law judge's ruling may be appealed to the five-member Board.The Board's determinations may be appealed to the federal court system by the losing party, whether it is the individual or company, on the one hand, or the FAA or the Coast Guard, on the other. However, from Ferguson v. NTSB , the NTSB's determinations are not overturned by the federal courts unless the NTSB abused its discretion, or its determination is wholly unsupported by the evidence.
The Safety Board maintains a training academyin Ashburn, Virginia, where it conducts courses for its employees and professionals in other government agencies, foreign governments or private companies, in areas such as general accident investigation, specific elements of investigations like survival factors or human performance, or related matters like family affairs or media relations. The facility houses for training purposes the reconstruction of more than 90 feet of the TWA Flight 800 Boeing 747, which was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean after it crashed on July 17, 1996, following a fuel tank explosion.
On 22 February, 2021, the NTSB announced that the TWA Flight 800 recreation would be decomissioned on 7 July, 2021. This decision comes as the lease for the Ashburn training center is due to expire in the near future. The NTSB indicated is moving away from large-scale reconstructions like was done with TWA Flight 800, and towards the use of 3D scans to reconstruct accidents. Under an agreement made with the families of the victims, when the reconstruction was retained as a training tool, the reconstruction was not allowed to used as a public exhibit or put on display. For this reason, the NTSB is planning to dismantle and destroy the reconstruction.
Trans World Airlines Flight 800 was a Boeing 747-100 that exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, on July 17, 1996, at about 8:31 p.m. EDT, 12 minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on a scheduled international passenger flight to Rome, with a stopover in Paris. All 230 people on board died in the crash; it is the third-deadliest aviation accident in U.S. history. Accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) traveled to the scene, arriving the following morning amid speculation that a terrorist attack was the cause of the crash. Consequently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and New York Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) initiated a parallel criminal investigation. Sixteen months later, the JTTF announced that no evidence of a criminal act had been found and closed its active investigation.
An aviation accident is defined by the Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft, which takes place from the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until all such persons have disembarked, and in which a) a person is fatally or seriously injured, b) the aircraft sustains significant damage or structural failure, or c) the aircraft goes missing or becomes completely inaccessible. Annex 13 defines an aviation incident as an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of operation.
American Airlines Flight 965 was a regularly scheduled flight from Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali, Colombia. On December 20, 1995, the Boeing 757-200 flying this route crashed into a mountain in Buga, Colombia, killing 151 of the 155 passengers and all eight crew members.
United Airlines Flight 585 was a scheduled passenger flight on March 3, 1991 from Denver to Colorado Springs, Colorado, carrying 20 passengers and 5 crew members on board. The plane experienced a rudder hardover while on final approach to runway 35 at Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, causing the plane to roll over and enter an uncontrolled dive. There were no survivors.
United Airlines Flight 553 was a scheduled flight from Washington National Airport to Omaha, Nebraska, via Chicago Midway International Airport. On December 8, 1972, the Boeing 737-222 serving the flight, City of Lincoln, registration N9031U, crashed during an aborted landing and go around while approaching Midway Airport.
The 1967 Hendersonville mid-air collision occurred when a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727-22 and a twin-engine Cessna 310 collided on July 19, 1967 over Hendersonville, North Carolina, USA. Both aircraft were destroyed and all passengers and crew were killed, including John T. McNaughton, an advisor to Robert McNamara.
Comair Flight 5191, marketed as Delta Connection Flight 5191, was a scheduled United States domestic passenger flight from Lexington, Kentucky, to Atlanta, Georgia, operated on behalf of Delta Connection by Comair. On the morning of August 27, 2006, at around 06:07 EDT, the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 100ER crashed while attempting to take off from Blue Grass Airport in Fayette County, Kentucky, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the central business district of the city of Lexington.
Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 159 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight from New York City to Los Angeles, California, with a stopover in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Kentucky, that crashed after an aborted takeoff from Cincinnati on 6 November 1967. The Boeing 707 attempted to abort takeoff when the copilot became concerned that the aircraft had collided with a disabled DC-9 on the runway. The aircraft overran the runway, struck an embankment and caught fire. One passenger died as a result of the accident.
A runway incursion is an aviation incident involving improper positioning of vehicles or people on any airport runway or its protected area. When an incursion involves an active runway being used by arriving or departing aircraft, the potential for a collision hazard or Instrument Landing System (ILS) interference can exist. At present, various runway safety technologies and processes are commonly employed to reduce the risk and potential consequences of such an event.
During the 1990s, a series of rudder issues on Boeing 737 aircraft resulted in multiple incidents. In two separate accidents, pilots lost control of their Boeing 737 aircraft due to a sudden and unexpected movement of the rudder, and the resulting crashes killed everyone aboard. A total of 157 people aboard the two aircraft were killed. Similar rudder issues led to a temporary loss of control on at least one other Boeing 737 flight before the problem was ultimately identified. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the accidents and incidents were the result of a design flaw that could result in an uncommanded movement of the aircraft's rudder. The issues were resolved after the NTSB identified the cause of the rudder malfunction and the Federal Aviation Administration ordered repairs for all Boeing 737 aircraft in service.
The National Transportation Safety Committee is an Indonesian government agency charged with the investigation of air, land, rail, and marine transportation safety deficiencies.
USAir Flight 427 was a scheduled flight from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to Pittsburgh International Airport, with a final destination of West Palm Beach, Florida. On Thursday, September 8, 1994, the Boeing 737 flying this route crashed in Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania while approaching Runway 28R at Pittsburgh, which at the time was the airline's largest hub.
On 22 December 2009, an American Airlines Boeing 737-800, operating American Airlines Flight 331 and carrying 148 passengers and six crew, overran runway 12 on landing at Kingston in poor weather. The plane continued on the ground outside the airport perimeter and broke apart on the beach, causing injuries.
In 2013, the second year of service for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a widebody jet airliner and several aircraft suffered from electrical system problems stemming from its lithium-ion batteries. Incidents included an electrical fire aboard an All Nippon Airways 787, and a similar fire found by maintenance workers on a parked Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a review into the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, followed by a full grounding of the entire Boeing 787 fleet, the first such grounding since that of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 in 1979. The plane has had two major battery thermal runaway events in 52,000 flight hours, which was substantially less than the 10 million flight hours predicted by Boeing, neither of which were contained in a safe manner.
National Airlines Flight 102 was a cargo flight operated by National Airlines between Camp Bastion in Afghanistan and Al Maktoum Airport in Dubai, with a refueling stop at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. On 29 April 2013, the Boeing 747-400 operating the flight crashed moments after taking off from Bagram, killing all seven people on board.
British Airways Flight 2276 was a scheduled international passenger service from Las Vegas to London. On 8 September 2015, the Boeing 777 operating the flight suffered an uncontained engine failure and fire in the left (#1) GE90 engine during take-off from Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport, prompting an aborted take-off and the evacuation of all passengers and crew. All 170 people on board survived, but 20 were injured. The aircraft, which suffered moderate damage to a section of its forward fuselage as of a result of the vigorous fire, was repaired and returned to commercial passenger service in March 2016.
American Airlines Flight 383 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight operating from Chicago O'Hare International Airport to Miami International Airport. On October 28, 2016, the Boeing 767-300ER operating the flight was accelerating for takeoff down Chicago O'Hare's runway 28R when the aircraft's right engine suffered an uncontained failure that led to a severe fire. The crew managed to abort the takeoff and evacuate everyone on board, while responding emergency services extinguished the fire. Twenty-one people were injured, and the aircraft was substantially damaged and written off.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 was a Boeing 737-7H4 that experienced a contained engine failure in the left CFM56-7B engine after departing from New York–LaGuardia Airport en route to Dallas Love Field on April 17, 2018. The engine cowl was broken in the failure, and cowl fragments damaged the fuselage, causing explosive depressurization of the aircraft after damaging a cabin window. Other fragments caused damage to the wing. The crew conducted an emergency descent and diverted to Philadelphia International Airport. One passenger was partially ejected from the aircraft and later died. Eight other passengers received minor injuries. The aircraft was substantially damaged.
The Boeing 737 MAX passenger airliner was grounded worldwide between March 2019 and December 2020 – longer in many jurisdictions – after 346 people died in two crashes, Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) resisted grounding the aircraft until March 13, when it received evidence of accident similarities. By then, most other regulators had already grounded the aircraft. By March 18, all 387 aircraft were banned from service.
On February 20, 2021, United Airlines Flight 328 (UA328) was a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Denver International Airport (DEN) to Honolulu, Hawaii; the Boeing 777-222 aircraft operating the route on that date suffered nominally contained engine failure shortly after takeoff, that resulted in a debris field at least 1 mile (1.6 km) long over the Commons Park suburban neighborhood of Broomfield, Colorado and surrounding area. Falling debris from the affected engine cowling was recorded by eyewitnesses using smartphone cameras and a dash cam. Debris also fell through the roof of a private home, and significantly damaged a parked vehicle.
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