By Deborah Hersman
What a week this has been! I have literally been across the country and across our nation’s transportation landscape. On Monday, I rode the train from DC to New Jersey to meet with members of the boards of transit authorities to talk about their role in safety oversight. On Tuesday, we conducted a board meeting to determine the probable cause of an October 2009 cargo tank truck rollover accident near Indianapolis. Then, on Wednesday, NTSB Board Member Earl Weener and I departed for Wisconsin on his Bonanza (a single-engine general aviation airplane manufactured by Beech).
In the aviation world, flying to Oshkosh, WI, can mean only one thing — EAA AirVenture. For nearly 60 years, the Experimental Aircraft Association, or EAA, has hosted what has turned into the world’s biggest aviation celebration at its annual “fly-in” jamboree.
At the NTSB, my usual interaction with the general aviation (GA) community is through tragedy — at the scene of an accident, reading a report, or participating in a board meeting following an often-fatal accident. In this line of work, I usually see what goes wrong rather than what goes right. I am pleased to report at AirVenture this week, I got to see the right stuff!
Over the last three days, I had the opportunity to meet with aviation enthusiasts in this vital community and was heartened by their commitment to continually improve aviation safety.
On Wednesday, Member Weener and I met with association leaders from across the GA community. The next day, I visited with the developers of Transition®, Terrafugia’s roadable light-sport aircraft; met the people behind Icon, a light-sport amphibious aircraft with folding wings (it can be towed behind a car); talked with the founder of Van’s Aircraft; and toured the Sonex manufacturing facility. Today, I attended a Women in Aviation gathering, toured KidVenture, and saw the Boeing 787-Dreamliner.
Whether it was meeting with industry leaders, aviation pioneers, or talking with pilots and builders on the flight line, one thing was clear: They all understand the importance of improving safety. I was encouraged by the honest discussions about pilot decision making, transition training for amateur builders, and the challenges associated with raising the safety bar within the GA community. Best yet, was the willingness from every stakeholder to focus on improving safety.
As I head homeward, I look forward to a future AirVenture visit and to helping create a safer future for general aviation.