List of NTSB 'Most Wanted' Safety Improvements Languish

The status accorded the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to its "Most Wanted" list of recommendations ranges from "unacceptable response" to "progressing too slowly." None of the board's aviation-related recommendations received a green...

Regarding image recorders, there are two parts to the NTSB's wish list. First, it wants the recorders in transport category aircraft to complement the voice and data captured by the CVR/FDR. The image recorders would enable investigators to see the instruments and controls, and to gauge pilot actions (and note movement in and out of the cockpit, and how many personnel are in the cockpit). The image recorder recommendation is an outgrowth of the EgyptAir Flight 990 accident, where a relief pilot is thought to have plunged the aircraft into its death dive, and of Swissair Flight 111, in which the cockpit crew was overwhelmed by an inflight fire and in which there was a critical 6- minute gap in recorded information as a result of the loss of power.

Second, the NTSB seeks image recorders in all Part 121/135 turbine aircraft not required to be outfitted with CVRs/FDRs. By this means, at least some record of the flight, instrument displays, control positions and pilot actions will be attained. The FAA has flight tested one such video recorder, and hopes to issue a technical standard order (TSO) sometime in 2006 indicating how the system will be set up and working. However, the FAA has not issued a proposed requirement for video recorders, either as a complement to existing CVRs/FDRs or as a stand-alone recorder for those aircraft not equipped with any CVR/FDR capability

Recommendation: In addition to adopting the 2-hour CVR requirement, require the retrofit of existing CVRs with Recorder Independent Power Supply (RIPS), and require that the existing FDR and CVR be on separate generator busses with the highest reliable power so that any single electrical failure does not disable both. Require the installation of video recording systems in small and large aircraft. Require the recording of additional needed FDR data for B737s. Status: "Open - Unacceptable Response." The recommendation has a red color-coded timeliness classification, signifying an unacceptable rate of progress.

Require restraint systems for children under age 2. The board members were visibly dismayed by the FAA's action Aug. 26 withdrawing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) that would have required restraint systems for infants and small children (see ASW, Sept. 12).

In October, the FAA separately informed the NTSB that child restraints will not be required. The FAA's rationale is that making parents buy a seat for the at-present lap children will encourage highway travel, which is more dangerous and therefore more infants will be killed or injured. The FAA's argument was based on two academic studies of the increase in highway travel over air following the 9/11 attacks.

Member Engleman-Conners sniffed, "Anything based on 9/11 data is subject to significant review" regarding the diversion of air passengers to another mode of transportation.

Member Hersman pointed out that the diversion of passengers because of post-9/11 security requirements was not addressed. "The FAA hasn't raised the diversion argument for anything other than children," she pointed out.

In addition, she said, neither FAA-cited study addressed the deaths of children.

An education effort, which is all the FAA is willing to commit to, appears to have yielded very superficial results. The FAA has a Web page devoted to child safety, but one has to know of its existence.

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