EAA AirVenture – Opportunity to Educate Pilots on Lessons Learned from Crashes

By Jeff Marcus

Logo for EAA AirVenture Fly In 2016For one week each year the control tower at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, becomes the busiest in the world when 10,000 airplanes fly in for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture. EAA AirVenture is one of the largest airshows in the world, with more than 500,000 visitors arriving over the week. This large gathering of general aviation pilots and aviation enthusiasts offers NTSB a great opportunity to share important information about safety with the flying public, and I am excited to be a presenter at this year’s event.

During the week-long event, Chairman Christopher Hart, Member Earl Weener, and 10 NTSB staff will provide accident case studies, share lessons learned, and give presentations on various safety issues related to general aviation.

As in years’ past, the NTSB will host an information booth in the Federal Pavilion. NTSB personnel will be on hand to address questions related to our recommendations and what we have seen from our crash investigations. Additionally, during this week NTSB investigators will discuss the recent Safety Alert issued by the NTSB on “Arriving at Major Fly-In Events” and, in another session, steps for avoiding construction and maintenance errors for experimental aircraft. We also use this event as an opportunity to stay abreast of the latest industry developments, so we can remain smart about our own recommendations for safety improvements.

Many of the NTSB presentations at EAA AirVenture, including mine, will focus on the actions pilots must take to avoid loss of control accidents.

Loss of aircraft control is the most common cause of general aviation accidents. Between 2008 and 2014, about 47 percent of fatal fixed-wing general aviation accidents in the United States involved pilots losing control of their aircraft in flight, resulting in 1,210 fatalities. As a result, preventing loss of control in flight in general aviation is one of the issues on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements.

While airline accidents have become relatively rare in the United States, general aviation accidents occur at much higher rates than airline accidents. The rate of accidents has been declining in commercial aviation, but the general aviation accident rate has remained largely unchanged. The NTSB has investigated, on average, about 1,366 general aviation accidents each year over the last five years. We must change this deadly trend of accidents—and events like this give us an important opportunity to work toward that goal.

I will be making a presentation on several NTSB recommendations that address the underlying causes of some loss of control accidents, including:

  1. Incompatibilities of modifications to airplanes
  2. Guidance for amateur builders of kit airplanes
  3. Pilot knowledge of how their “glass cockpit” displays react to common failure modes like a blocked pitot tube
  4. Clarification of policies regarding the use of marijuana by general aviation pilots
  5. Information for pilots on the side effects of some common over-the-counter medications available without a prescription
  6. Impairments to pilot’s night vision caused by cataracts

The last three topics relate to Impairment and Medical Fitness for Duty, other concerns for the pilot community that are also on our Most Wanted List. Other NTSB presentations at EAA AirVenture will discuss additional safety issues related to loss of control accidents, including weather issues.

I look forward to attending and presenting at EAA AirVenture this year, and I encourage all pilots and aviation enthusiasts to attend, as well. If you will be attending, please stop by the NTSB booth in the Federal Pavilion or attend one of the NTSB presentations.

To view our complete schedule of presentations, visit our website.

Jeff Marcus is an aviation transportation safety specialist in NTSB’s Office of Safety Recommendations & Communications.

Getting to Know Crash Avoidance Technologies

By Earl Weener, PhD

Member Weener views occupant crash testing.
Member Weener reviewing occupant crash testing technologies.

The NTSB’s Most Wanted List features the top ten safety improvement areas the Board emphasizes each year. Board Members select two or three Most Wanted List items on which to focus. This year, I chose to promote the availability of collision avoidance technologies in highway vehicles because existing and emerging crash avoidance technologies can prevent crashes, reduce injuries, and save lives. In fact, two separate NTSB studies on rear-end collisions, one in 2001 and one in 2015, make this point clear.

I met recently with automakers and vehicle safety researchers in Michigan, where I had the opportunity to experience several different safety technologies. In one vehicle, I felt the force of its autonomous emergency braking system as the car stopped to avoid a vehicle directly in our path. Another car warned me when I drifted out of the marked lane and even provided steering assist to get me back between the lines. Crash avoidance technologies such as autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring are well known to the NTSB, but experiencing the effectiveness of these safety features in action was enlightening.

I also toured safety research facilities where automotive professionals test vehicles and their components to improve occupant protection and crash avoidance technologies. Some of these technologies safeguard pedestrians by alerting the driver to a person immediately in front of or behind the vehicle; some actually stop the vehicle in time to avoid a potentially deadly impact. Pedestrian safety was examined in a recent NTSB forum and remains a serious focus for NTSB.

As an engineer, I respect the dedication of the engineers and scientists developing and improving cutting edge technologies that meet and even exceed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards. I commend automakers who commit substantial resources to the innovation of these vital technologies.

I am impressed by the safety first mindset of the companies I visited. Automakers are adopting a safety-based mode of operation, focusing on organization-wide responsibility for the safety of their products. These companies are even working cooperatively on vehicle-to-vehicle communication capabilities. As one executive told me, automakers “don’t compete on safety” and believe that other aspects of their products should distinguish them from the crowd. I was glad to see that, in 2017, even more vehicles will include some safety technologies as standard equipment. This is good news, especially considering NTSB’s position that crash avoidance technologies should be standard equipment in every model of every automaker.

Existing crash avoidance technologies can reduce the unacceptable losses on our roads.

As these technologies become part of the transportation system, I have a few words of encouragement:

  • Traffic safety organizations: help spread the word about the importance of crash avoidance technologies.
  • Automobile manufacturers: inform dealers and their staff about vehicle safety features.
  • Automobile dealers: educate consumers about the benefits and proper use of these important safety technologies.
  • Consumers: learn about the technologies and consider test driving a vehicle equipped with some of the latest safety features.
  • Parents and guardians: consider the importance of these technologies for our newest and youngest drivers.

The most important safety feature in any vehicle is a vigilant, sober, and well-rested driver who is fully focused on driving. A single lapse in judgment, moment of distraction, or poor choice can have lifelong consequences. Fortunately, more vehicles offer features designed to step in to protect us.

As more consumers demand crash avoidance technologies, embrace their use and provide feedback to automakers, these lifesaving technologies will continue to improve. Road safety is everyone’s responsibility, and the growing availability and enthusiastic adoption of these technologies by safety-conscious drivers will save lives.

Earl F. Weener is an NTSB Board Member

Todos somos peatones: lecciones aprendidas del Foro de Seguridad de Peatones

Por Bella Dinh-Zarr, vicepresidenta de la Agencia Nacional de Seguridad del Transporte de EE.UU.

pedestrians in a crosswalk on summer day

Recientemente, la Agencia Nacional de Seguridad del Transporte de Estados Unidos (NTSB por sus siglas en inglés) organizó su Primer Foro sobre Seguridad de Peatones. Junto a expertos en transporte de nuestra agencia, tuve la oportunidad de moderar una interesante discusión con líderes de gobierno, académicos, las comunidades locales y la industria del transporte acerca de los crecientes riesgos de muerte y lesiones a los que se enfrentan los peatones.

Sin lugar a dudas, la seguridad del peatón es un problema que afecta a todos y cada uno de nosotros. No importa quiénes seamos o dónde vivamos, todos -tanto si nos trasladamos a pie como si nos movilizamos en silla de ruedas- somos peatones en al menos una parte de nuestros desplazamientos diarios.

Se espera que al menos el 70 por ciento de la población mundial viva en zonas urbanas y suburbanas para el año 2030, así que creo que no podríamos estar en un momento mejor para centrarnos en esta importante forma de movilidad. Los peatones son los usuarios más vulnerables de nuestro sistema de transporte y este tema se está convirtiendo en una nueva prioridad para muchas agencias nacionales de seguridad, incluyendo la NTSB en los Estados Unidos, así como para campañas internacionales como la Década de Acción por la Seguridad en las Carreteras de Naciones Unidas.

La Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) estima que 270.000 peatones pierden la vida cada año en todo el mundo. En América Latina y el Caribe, la Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS) estima que más de 23.500 peatones mueren anualmente a causa de siniestros de tránsito. De acuerdo con el sistema de información y análisis de fatalidades de EE.UU. (Fatality Analysis Reporting System o FARS), aproximadamente 4.800 peatones murieron y otras 65.000 personas resultaron heridas en las vías públicas de EE.UU. en 2014. Esta cifra equivale a un muerto y 14 heridos cada dos horas. Estos números no incluyen a las personas que murieron o resultaron heridos en las calzadas, caminos privados, estacionamientos y lugares de trabajo. De acuerdo con la Asociación de Gobernadores por la Seguridad en las Carreteras de EE.UU., entre 2009 y 2014 el número de peatones que murieron en accidentes aumentó en un 15 por ciento. Este número ha seguido aumentando incluso en años en los que las muertes por accidentes de tráfico con vehículos de motor se han mantenido estables o incluso han disminuido. Los peatones están cada vez más en riesgo de muerte o de sufrir lesiones y ya representan una de cada siete muertes causadas por accidentes de tráfico en EE.UU.

Aunque el Foro de Seguridad Peatonal se centró en actividades en EE.UU., muchas de las lecciones compartidas son aplicables al resto del mundo. El Foro analizó datos y tendencias recientes, políticas de planificación urbana, diseño de carreteras y medidas tecnológicas correctivas. Según los expertos del foro, necesitamos datos más específicos con el fin de entender mejor las circunstancias en las que se producen los accidentes de peatones, incluyendo la ubicación, la geometría y ángulo de impacto, la velocidad y la presencia de posibles distracciones.

Los datos que tenemos muestran que las lesiones entre peatones son una de las principales causas de muerte entre los jóvenes de menos de 15 años. Resulta particularmente trágico el hecho de que, en algunos países, este tipo de accidentes sea la primera causa de muerte en niños en edad escolar, muchas cuando están camino de a la escuela. Para abordar esta cuestión, el segundo Foro Internacional de Seguridad Vial Infantil tuvo lugar los pasados días 16 y 17 de junio de 2016 en Santiago de Chile, que se centró específicamente en la seguridad de los niños peatones. En la reunión, la Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, organizadora del evento, dio a conocer un estudio encargado por FedEx y titulado Transporte escolar: situación actual y oportunidades de mejora. A medida que nos acercamos al Día Internacional de Caminar a la Escuela el próximo 5 de octubre de 2016, es importante recordar la importancia de prestar especial atención a los peatones más vulnerables entre los vulnerables, los niños.

Planificar para prevenir

Las muertes y las lesiones a los peatones se pueden prevenir a través de la planificación urbana y del diseño de carreteras que den prioridad a los peatones y a los vehículos que tienen en cuenta la seguridad de los peatones en su diseño. Los panelistas de este foro presentarán innovadores diseños de carreteras, incluyendo medianas e islas para el cruce de peatones tanto en áreas urbanas como suburbanas, balizas híbridas para peatones y otras medidas que permiten reconfigurar nuestras calles para que sean más seguras para los peatones, al tiempo que se mantiene la movilidad de los vehículos. Muchas de las ideas presentadas reflejan las filosofías de la iniciativa Visión Cero, un concepto sobre seguridad vial nacido en Suecia y que ha sido adoptado en todo el mundo, o Calles Completas, un ejemplo de diseño inclusivo que reconoce que las carreteras deben responder a las necesidades de todos sus usuarios, y no solo a las de los autos.

La tecnología fue la otra área en la que se centró este foro. Según un experto federal de EE.UU., el 90 por ciento de todos los accidentes de peatones podría mitigarse o prevenirse mediante la incorporación de tecnologías de detección de peatones en los vehículos. Esta tecnología ayuda a los vehículos a detectar los peatones y frenan de manera automática en caso de riesgo de impacto. También los faros de los vehículos y una mejor iluminación de las carreteras pueden prevenir este tipo de accidentes. Al mejorar la visibilidad global, los conductores son capaces de detectar mejor los peatones por la noche, que es cuando se producen la mayoría de accidentes con víctimas mortales. Otras medidas de mitigación, tales como los parachoques y capuchas blandas o los airbags para peatones pueden salvar vidas, ya que en caso de accidente reducen la gravedad de las lesiones.

Puede acceder a las presentaciones de los panelistas aquí.

Uno de los temas que más surgieron durante los debates fue el hecho de que si nos centramos en las víctimas más vulnerables (los niños, las personas mayores y las personas en sillas de ruedas o con otros problemas de movilidad), seremos capaces de mejorar la seguridad de todos los peatones. Proteger a los más vulnerables es sin duda una buena elección, tanto en transporte como en la vida.

* Bella Dinh-Zarr es vicepresidenta de la Agencia Nacional de Seguridad del Transporte de EE.UU. (NTSB), una agencia federal independiente del Gobierno de EE.UU. encargada de investigar los accidentes y de promover la seguridad del transporte. Dinh-Zarr tiene formación como científica de salud pública y anteriormente se desempeñó como directora para Estados Unidos de la Fundación FIA, donde promovió la Década de Acción para la Seguridad Vial de la ONU y la defensa de la seguridad del transporte como una prioridad política a nivel nacional e internacional. Dinh-Zarr fue nominada a la NTSB en 2015 por el presidente Barack Obama y confirmada por el Senado de EE.UU.

We are All Pedestrians: Lessons Learned from the Pedestrian Safety Forum

By Vice Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH

pedestrians in a crosswalk

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held our first-ever Pedestrian Safety Forum. Along with transportation experts from my agency, I had the opportunity to chair the discussion with leaders from government, academia, communities, and industry about the increasing risk of death and injury to pedestrians. The NTSB is well-known for our investigations of aviation accidents, but we never forget that our mission is to advance transportation safety in every mode of transportation.

Without a doubt, pedestrian safety is an issue that affects every one of us. No matter who we are, or where we live, we all walk – or if we are in a wheelchair, roll – as part of our daily journeys.

With at least 70 percent of the world’s population expected to live in urban and suburban areas by 2030, there is no better time than now to focus on this important form of mobility. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable users in our transportation system and this issue is becoming an emerging priority for many national safety agencies, such as the NTSB in the United States, as well as for international efforts such as the United Nations’ Decade of Action for Road Safety.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 270,000 pedestrians lose their lives every year around the globe. In our region, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that more than 23,500 people die as pedestrians in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), approximately 4,800 pedestrians died on public roads and another 65,000 people were injured in the United States in 2014.  That amounts to one death and 14 injuries every two hours.  These numbers do not include people who died or were injured on driveways, private roads, parking lots, and worksites.  According to the U.S. Governors Highway Safety Association, from 2009 to 2014, the number of pedestrians who died in crashes increased by 15 percent.  This number has continued to rise, even during years when overall motor vehicle deaths for Americans have held steady or declined. Pedestrians are increasingly at risk for death and injury and constitute one in every seven motor vehicle crash deaths in the United States.

Although much of the focus of the Pedestrian Safety Forum was on activities in the U.S., many lessons are broadly applicable and we collaborate with our counterparts in other parts of the world and recognize the importance of sharing knowledge across borders. The Forum addressed data and recent trends; urban planning policy; highway design countermeasures; and technological countermeasures. According to the forum’s experts, we need more and more specific data in order to have a better understanding of the circumstances in which pedestrian crashes occur, including location, geometry/angle of impact, speed, and the presence of potential distractions.  The data that we do have show that pedestrian injuries are one of the leading causes of death for ages 15 years and younger. Especially tragic is that, in some countries, the #1 cause of death for school-age children is as a pedestrian fatality – children are dying as they walk to get an education.   To address this issue, the Second International Child Road Safety Forum was convened on June 16-17, 2016, in Santiago, Chile, and focused specifically on the safety of child pedestrians. At the meeting, the organizers, the Gonzalo Rodriguez Foundation, released a study, commissioned by FedEx, entitled Transport of Schoolchildren: Current situation and opportunities for improvement. As we approach International Walk to School Day on October 5, 2016, we remember to pay special attention to the most vulnerable of our vulnerable road users.

Pedestrian deaths and injuries can be prevented through urban planning and highway design that prioritizes pedestrians and through pedestrian-friendly vehicle design. Forum panelists presented highway design countermeasures, including medians and pedestrian crossing islands in urban and suburban areas, pedestrian hybrid beacons, and “road diets” that reconfigure roads to make them safer for pedestrians while maintaining mobility. Many of the ideas presented reflect the philosophies of Vision Zero , the Swedish approach to road safety that has been adopted worldwide, or Complete Streets, the inclusive design approach that recognizes that a road should be responsive to the needs of all its users.

Technology was another focus area of this forum. According to one U.S. federal expert, 90 percent of all pedestrian crashes could be mitigated or prevented through pedestrian detection technology in vehicles. This technology assists vehicles in detecting the pedestrian ahead and providing automatic braking. Vehicle headlights and better road lighting can also make a difference. By improving overall visibility, drivers are able to better detect pedestrians at night, when most fatal crashes occur. Other pedestrian mitigation countermeasures, such as soft bumpers and hoods, and pedestrian airbags, can save lives by ameliorating the severity of injuries once the crash occurs.

We must use all the tools at our disposal to address pedestrian safety. Our panelists provided thoughtful ideas related to the problems and countermeasures that can be taken to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities. You can view copies of their presentations here.

One of the themes that seemed to surface again and again is that if we focus on those who are the most vulnerable among us – children, older people, people in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues – we improve pedestrian safety for everyone. Protecting the most vulnerable – that is a good lesson for transportation and for life.

This blog also appears on the Inter-American Development Bank’s Moviliblog website. IDB has received permission from the NTSB to reproduce it on the Moviliblog website. This permission does not constitute an endorsement of IDB or Moviliblog by the NTSB.


Safely Fueling the Future

By Robert L. Sumwalt

Promote Completion of Rail Safety Initiatives posterOn Wednesday, July 13, the NTSB will host a roundtable discussion comprised of more than two dozen experts from the nation’s railroad industry, including rail-car manufacturers and owners, union representatives, and transportation safety associations. We will be discussing issues that are critical to ensuring the timely implementation of new federal safety standards for rail tank cars that carry flammable liquids.

The transportation of crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids on our nation’s railroads has skyrocketed in the past decade. The most common tank cars used to transport these hazardous materials are specification DOT-111 tank cars (legacy DOT-111) and a newer modified version of these tank cars, called CPC-1232s.

Since 2006, there have been 28 significant accidents in the U.S. and Canada involving flammable liquids transported by rail. These unfortunate events resulted in more than 5 million gallons of crude oil and ethanol spilling. They all involved legacy DOT-111 or CPC-1232 tank cars. NTSB investigations into these kinds of derailments, dating back to 1991, have shown that older general purpose tank cars lack sufficient crashworthiness. The risks are greater when such tank cars are transported in high numbers, as is seen in ethanol and crude oil unit trains.

The NTSB roundtable comes on the heels of the three-year anniversary of a tragic event involving 63 derailed legacy DOT-111 tank cars in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, which spilled 1.6 million gallons of crude oil. That July 6, 2013, accident and subsequent fire killed 47 people and destroyed the town center.

And the 13 tank cars that derailed in Mosier, Oregon, last month, dumping 42,000 gallons of crude oil were CPC-1232 tank cars.

Congress and the Department of Transportation announced last year new federal standards requiring the rail industry to meet tougher safety guidelines. These guidelines included retrofitting legacy tank cars with more robust safety features, and, in the case of new tank cars, building them to standards, known as DOT-117, that require increased puncture resistance and thermal protection in order to significantly reduce the likelihood of product release in a derailment.

The phase-in deadlines for these new tank cars range from 2018 to 2025 for crude oil and ethanol, and 2029 for all other Class 3 flammable liquids.

In our roundtable, we hope to gain deeper insight into the process involved in upgrading the rail industry’s existing tank fleet, as well as learn how all parties involved can overcome existing roadblocks to the successful and timely implementation of the new tank car rules. The safety of our communities, our economy, and the environment is at stake—and we shouldn’t have to wait another decade or more to see improvements.

The roundtable is open to the public and will be streamed via webcast. We’ll pose a number of questions to our experts during the session, and encourage viewers to submit questions in advance by e-mailing them to RailTankCarSafety@ntsb.gov.

Robert Sumwalt is an NTSB Board Member and will facilitate the roundtable discussion