. The U.S. aviation community has made steady progress in improving safety and reducing the number of aircraft accidents, partially because of its adoption of numerous safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday.
Safety recommendations are “our biggest tool,” Sumwalt said during a meeting aimed at outlining progress on the recommendations included in its 2017–2018 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements.
Adoption of those recommendations can save lives, he added, noting that the last fatal accident involving a U.S. scheduled passenger airliner was the 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, New York. The crash killed all 49 people in the airplane and one person on the ground, destroyed the airplane — a Bombardier Q400 — and prompting a series of safety recommendations from the NTSB.
Many of those recommendations have been adopted in some form, but other recommendations stemming from NTSB investigations of other accidents are pending. Open recommendations associated with the items included on the Most Wanted List are detailed in a 28-page summary released by the NTSB to track their status. The summary contains recommendations relating not only to aviation but also to other modes of transportation.
The NTSB describes the Most Wanted List as its “premier advocacy tool.” The list “identifies the top safety improvements that can be made across all modes to prevent accidents and save lives in the future.”
The only item on the Most Wanted List that addresses only aviation, and no other mode of transportation, is preventing loss of control in general aviation. The summary lists eight relevant open safety recommendations, including recommendations to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration calling for development of a means to identify pilots “whose overall performance history indicates that they are at future risk of accident involvement,” and for upgrading training for air traffic controllers to enable them to more easily identify emergencies and to help pilots resolve associated problems.
Several other Most Wanted List items address problems that occur across transportation modes, including ensuring safe shipment of hazardous materials, ending alcohol and drug impairment, reducing fatigue-related accidents, improving medical fitness, eliminating distractions, strengthening occupant protection and expanding use of recorders to enhance safety.