AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 26

SAFETY SPOTLIGHT
NTSB transition
Blue skies, tailwinds, and sincere thanks
to the Honorable Robert Sumwalt
BY RICHARD MCSPADDEN / Senior Vice President
AOPA Air Safety Institute
THIS SUMMER, Robert L. Sumwalt III, chairman of the National
Transportation Safety Board, will retire after 15 years with the
NTSB. Jennifer Homendy has been nominated by President Joe
Biden and is expected to receive Senate confirmation to succeed
Sumwalt. The transition is an important one for the world's leading
aviation accident investigation organization. Homendy will do
well to build on the successes Sumwalt has championed while setting
new strategies to deepen the NTSB's influence.
Sumwalt departs as the second longest serving board member
in the history of the NTSB and the longest serving member to also
serve as chairman. A colleague once advised me the key to success
in Washington, D.C., is to root for people on a personal level, even
when you must work against any broad action they are advancing
in the moment. Sumwalt mastered that approach. He can hold civil
disagreements without belligerence. Even when we disagreed, I
always felt he was still personally in my corner. I'm sure most people
across the transportation sphere felt the same way. Which explains
how he could navigate four presidential administrations from both
sides of the political divide to hold uninterrupted appointments as
member, vice chairman, and chairman for two consecutive terms.
I admired Sumwalt for his willingness to stand in the breach.
We had numerous discussions, public and private, on aviation
safety matters, some of which he knew would not be kind on the
NTSB. He defended the NTSB vigorously at times. He also admitted
NTSB missteps and struggled to move notoriously intransigent
civil servants to act on reforms he knew were needed.
As safety-minded aviators, Sumwalt and I agreed on far more
than we disagreed. We typically disagreed on the length government
should go to mandate actions for GA safety. Sumwalt's
background in large airline and corporate operations inclined him
to advocate for structure, restrictions, and oversight that I often
felt would strangle GA without significant safety benefit.
No one can take full credit for the safety improvements across
commercial and general aviation over the past 15 years. We witnessed
a 10-year run in the airlines without a single fatality, and the
GA accident rate dropped steadily to record low levels. Everyone
involved can take some credit, and Sumwalt deserves his share.
Homendy is a former senior staffer on Capitol Hill and brings
exceptional skill navigating Washington's labyrinth. She showed
a bit of her compassionate style and exhaustive work ethic leading
26
AOPA PILOT / August 2021
the NTSB's response to the Sikorsky accident that killed Kobe
Bryant and eight others in 2020. If Homendy is confirmed, as with
any senior leader transition, the NTSB change offers an opportunity
for renewed energy and focus. Since the NTSB is fond of its
biennial top 10 most wanted list, I'll stay in that style with a most
wanted list for Homendy's term leading the NTSB:
1. Stop the top 10 most wanted list. An arbitrary round number
like 10 results in a few items that don't belong on the list just to
reach the number. It dilutes the credibility and thus the impact of
a list intended to draw focus to the most pressing issues.
2. Focus on improving the NTSB's core mission: accident
investigations. Over the last couple of decades, the number
of fatal aviation accidents has dropped by more than half;
meanwhile, the average time to complete an investigation has
increased. The NTSB is investigating fewer accidents, with more
resources, and taking longer to do it. Additionally, each investigator
writes in their own format, which can result in them
focusing on subjects they know the most about, leading to timeconsuming
tangents, not germane to the accident cause. Much
of the safety strategy and materials used in industry begins with
data and trends derived from NTSB reports. Accelerating work
underway to standardize reports and release them more promptly
would have a positive impact on GA safety.
3. Stop the " one size fits all " recommendations in aviation.
An owner-pilot commercial operator with one airplane hauling
a single passenger to locations in Idaho is vastly different than a
Part 135 commercial operator with multiple airplanes each carrying
a half dozen or more tourists in Alaska. The risk to society
is different and the regulatory oversight should reflect the public
risk. The notion that every passenger paying seat should meet the
safety standard of a Part 121 air carrier is unrealistic. It's disingenuous
to set such an expectation for the public.
Blue skies, tailwinds, and sincere thanks to the Honorable
Robert Sumwalt. Welcome to the Honorable Jennifer Homendy
and all the best in her confirmation.
We'll work with her
to make the next 15 years in
aviation safety even more
impressive than the last.
Go fly.
ASI Senior Vice President
RICHARD MCSPADDEN
has flown a range of aircraft
including Cessna Citations,
F-15s, and Piper Super Cubs.

AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - BB1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - BB2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 11
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 12
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 13
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 14
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 15
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 16
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 17
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 18
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 20
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 21
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 22
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 23
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 24
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 25
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 26
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 27
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 28
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 29
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 30
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 31
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 32
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 33
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 34
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 35
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 36
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 37
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 38
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 39
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 40
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 41
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 42
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 43
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 44
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 45
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 46
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 47
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 48
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 49
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 50
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 51
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 53
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 54
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 55
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 56
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 57
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 58
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 60
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 61
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 62
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 63
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 65
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 66
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 67
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 69
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 70
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 71
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 72
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 73
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 74
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - 76
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - August 2021 - Cover4
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