NTSB’s Beverley Drake Recognized for Aviation Achievements

NTSB's Beverly Drake (second from right) was honored during Brooklyn’s Caribbean-American Heritage Month.
NTSB’s Beverly Drake (second from right) was honored during Brooklyn’s Caribbean-American Heritage Month

When you think of female aviation pioneers, names like Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart, Beryl Markham and Harriet Quimby come to mind, but did you know there’s a female aviation pioneer working in the NTSB Office of Aviation Safety?

That pioneer is Beverley Drake, a native of Guyana, who is now a senior aviation accident investigator/analyst who also heads the NTSB Federal Women’s Program.

At age 19, Drake left her home in Georgetown, Guyana, on a Guyana Scholarship to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to pursue her goal – as well as her father’s dream – to learn to be a pilot. A year later, in 1977, she was back in Guyana with her wings and ratings and became one of only two female pilots flying for the Guyana army. “I flew twin-engine airplane transport aircraft in the jungle with limited navigational aids,” Drake said.

The following year, she became the first woman pilot for Guyana Airways. Drake flew the Twin Otter and the Hawker Siddeley 748.

In 1980, she moved with her family to New York City where she worked in finance. Determined to keep her pilot’s certificate current, she flew with flying clubs out of the Farmingdale, Long Island, airport.

In 1991, Drake joined the NTSB as a transportation safety specialist. Next, she was a regional investigator and completed 300 investigations and also worked on USAir 427 as chair of the witness group and on TWA 800 reconstruction.

“Beverley’s commitment to safety shows everyday in the energy and enthusiasm that she brings to her work,” said Dana Schulze, Deputy Director, Office of Aviation Safety. “Beverley is also an active participant in outreach programs within the local community and serves as an inspiration to the next generation of safety professionals.”

Last week, during Brooklyn’s Caribbean-American Heritage Month, Drake (pictured above, second from right) was recognized with a City of New York Citation, “The Golden Arrowhead Award of Distinction,” and a proclamation in recognition of her contributions to Guyana and aviation.

“It was an honor to be recognized for my achievements,” Drake said. “I will continue to encourage young women to pursue aviation and science, technology, engineering and mathematics as a career choice.”

Distraction is in the Head, Not the Hands

MunfordvilleBy Debbie Hersman

In the early morning hours of March 26, 2010, a van carrying 12 people bound for a wedding in Iowa was traveling northbound on I-65 when a tractor-trailer crossed the highway median and collided with it nearly head-on. Ten people in the van and the truck driver were killed, making it the worst crash in Kentucky in more than two decades.

The NTSB found that the truck driver lost control of his vehicle after becoming distracted by the use of his cell phone. While it could not be determined whether the driver was holding his phone or using it in a hands-free mode, numerous studies have shown that the crash risk between hand-held and hands-free conversations is almost identical.

That’s why in 2011, the NTSB recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibit commercial drivers from using a cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle. The FMCSA did take steps to ban texting and the use of handheld devices when driving. However, the same restrictions are not applied to hands-free devices, based on FMCSA’s determination that hands-free operations are not a safety risk.

Studies and accident investigations tell a very different story. Just yesterday, another study on cognitive distraction was released, which found “significant impairments to driving from the diversion of attention.” That research, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, rated the use of hands-free and hand-held cell phones as almost equal sources of cognitive distraction.

The NTSB saw just that in its investigation of a motorcoach accident when a cognitively distracted driver using a hands-free cell phone collided with the underside of a bridge overpass in Virginia after failing to notice clearly visible low-clearance signs. Not only did he miss the signs, he said he didn’t even see the bridge.

The evidence is clear: Distraction is in the head, not the hands.