NTSB Adds Safety Recommendations to 'Most Wanted' List
The National Transportation Safety Board recently issued its 2010 federal Most Wanted list of Transportation Safety Improvements, adding rail, aviation and marine issues, and updating the status of other issues on the list. Additionally, NTSB removed the issue areas dealing with improved protection for school bus passengers and fatigue in the pipeline industry.
"Every one of the hundreds of currently open safety recommendations address concerns that the Safety Board has uncovered in its accident investigations," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "But the recommendations on the Most Wanted list represent those improvements that can have the widest benefit."
Each issue area is color coded by NTSB to designate its action/timeliness: Red for Unacceptable Response; Yellow for Acceptable Response, Progressing Slowly; and Green for Acceptable Response, Progressing in a Timely Manner.
The 2010 Most Wanted list addresses recommendations in the following categories:
Coming on the heels of several serious transit rail accidents around the country — notably the June 22, 2009, collision on Washington, D.C.'s system that killed 9 people — NTSB added "Improve Transit Railcar Design" to the list.
A railcar's ability to withstand the dynamic forces of an accident is essential to protecting the vehicle's occupants. In accident investigations in recent years, NTSB has noted telescoping of transit cars that have destroyed or greatly compromised survivable space. Two recommendations added to the list are aimed at improving transit railcar design, and the issue area was given a Yellow designation.
The "Improve Oversight of Pilot Proficiency" issue area contains two 2005 recommendations calling on FAA to require airlines to obtain histories of flight check failures by pilot applicants and to require special training programs for pilots who have demonstrated performance deficiencies. The designation is Red.
"Improve Runway Safety” — The deadliest accident in aviation history was a runway collision in 1977. Runway accidents and incidents continue to occur, including a fatal regional jet accident in Kentucky in 2006 and an incident last year when an airliner landed on a taxiway in Atlanta. NTSB has a series of recommendations aimed at preventing such occurrences, including requiring moving map displays in the cockpit, giving immediate warnings to the cockpit of impending incursions, and requiring landing distance assessments with an adequate safety margin for every landing. The designation was upgraded from Red to Yellow.
"Reduce Dangers to Aircraft Flying in Icing Conditions” — An airliner crash in 1994 prompted NTSB to examine the issue of airframe structural icing and conclude that certification standards have been inadequate. The Feb. 12, 2009, Colgan air crash that resulted in 50 deaths was partially caused by the pilot’s erroneous management during an icing condition. NTSB continues to believe the FAA has failed to make adequate progress in this area and has kept the designation at Red.
"Improve the Safety of Motor Carrier Operations” — NTSB's recommendation is aimed at preventing motor carriers from operating if they put vehicles with mechanical problems on the road or unqualified drivers behind the wheel. Due to FMCSA's continuing slow progress on this issue, the designation was downgraded from Yellow to Red.
"Prevent Collisions by Using Enhanced Vehicle Safety Technology” — NTSB has recommended the use of adaptive cruise control and collision warning technologies to improve highway safety. A Department of Transportation analysis has shown that 48 percent of accidents could be prevented by the use of certain collision warning systems. The designation on this issue remains Yellow.
"Prohibit Cell Phone Use by Motorcoach Drivers” — NTSB believes commercial drivers at the wheels of motorcoaches and school buses should be prevented from using cell phones. With some progress being made by the Department of Transportation and FMSCA, the designation remains Yellow.
"Reduce Accidents and Incidents Caused by Human Fatigue in the Marine, Aviation and Pipeline Industries” — NTSB noted it has long been concerned about the effects of fatigue on persons performing critical functions in all modes of transportation. NTSB believes that working hour limits should be based on the latest fatigue research. For both the aviation and marine modes, NTSB believes the actions of the FAA and the Coast Guard are unacceptable, and maintained designations for both at Red.
NTSB reported that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has published a final rule establishing new bases for managing fatigue in the pipeline industry. NTSB said the rule is "a significant step forward for an industry that did not previously have any rules governing hours of service." NTSB therefore closed the recommendation Acceptable Alternate Action and has removed fatigue in the pipeline industry from the Most Wanted list.
The complete Most Wanted list can be viewed at http://www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2010/100218c.html.