By Mark R. Rosekind, PhD
With our core mission to investigate transportation accidents, the NTSB also can help enhance safety by showing others what we do and how we do it — before accidents happen. That way, people are not learning about our role under the fast and often hectic pace of crisis conditions. This advance work makes it easier to explain the depth and breadth of our work and builds relationships in which we can serve as a safety resource.
Recently, I had the pleasure of providing New York Congressman Richard Hanna a tour of the NTSB’s laboratories so he could see firsthand some of the data-retrieval and metallurgical work done by our technical experts. Hanna serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, one of our lead panels of jurisdiction in the U.S. House of Representatives with oversight on aviation, railroads, highways, pipeline safety, and all other modes of transportation. He is a pilot with seaplane and high performance certifications who owns and operates his own aircraft. He also has experience in pipeline construction, having been a contractor in his previous career. This lawmaker not only has a great personal interest in what the NTSB does, but is also responsible for legislating in areas that directly affect the agency.
Joe Kolly, Director of the NTSB’s Office of Research and Engineering, and Jim Cash of the Vehicle Recorder Division led the Congressman through the Materials and Vehicle Recorders Laboratories. These facilities at our Washington headquarters have failure analysis equipment to conduct or coordinate all of the material analysis performed by the NTSB. Data can also be recovered and analyzed from the many types of recording devices in use today. Our lab experts complete about 150 reports a year across all modes.
This laboratory work is invaluable to a thorough and accurate understanding of what caused and contributed to accidents, which allows the NTSB to make its safety recommendations. That is the core mission of our work – investigating, understanding, and making recommendations to help prevent future tragic accidents, loss of life, and injuries.
Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D. was sworn in as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board on June 30, 2010. He is a frequent contributor to the NTSB blog.