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Aircraft Accident Report – Crash During Experimental Test Flight Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation GVI (G650), N652GD, Roswell, NM – April 2, 2011 - Chairman's Opening Remarks
Deborah A. P. Hersman
Aircraft Accident Report – Crash During Experimental Test Flight Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation GVI (G650), N652GD, Roswell, NM – April 2, 2011 - Chairman's Opening Remarks

Good morning. Welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Debbie Hersman, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Joining me are my fellow Board members, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener. Vice Chairman Hart has recused himself consistent with his ethics obligations.

Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the April 2, 2011, airplane crash of a Gulfstream G650 during flight testing in Roswell, New Mexico.

On behalf of my fellow Board members and the entire NTSB staff, I offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the four flight test professionals who died in this accident. Today's discussion may be difficult for some to hear, but it is absolutely critical that we have an open and candid conversation about the company and individuals involved in this accident so that we can make recommendations to improve aviation safety.

While there is risk in everything we do, there is greater risk in developing and testing new aircraft. To support the men and women who do this essential work that paves the way for new technology and new products, it's important to understand what happened, why it happened and identify ways to prevent future accidents.

As we delved into the circumstances of the crash, several issues emerged.

First, flight testing should not be rushed or compromised. In other accident investigations, we have seen the tragic consequences of schedule pressures or "get-there-itis." We've seen crashes where airline pilots or truck drivers push the limits to arrive at a final destination.

In this investigation we saw an aggressive test flight schedule and pressure to get the aircraft certified. Assumptions and errors were made, but they were neither reviewed nor re-evaluated when new data was collected.

Deadlines are essential motivators, but safety must always trump schedule.

Second, as aircraft become more sophisticated and more complex, such as the G650, Gulfstream's first fly-by-wire business jet, the planning and flight test environment should respect the aircraft's complexity. That means an abundance of precaution and well-defined procedures.

Two prior close calls should have prompted a yellow flag, but instead of slowing down to analyze what had happened, the program continued full speed ahead. Without a Safety Management System or a safety officer, those early warnings were not heeded.

Third, in all areas of aircraft manufacturing, and particularly in flight testing where the risks are greater, leadership must require processes that are complete, clear and include well-defined criteria.

This crash was as much an absence of leadership as it was of lift.

Today, we will hear about what happened in Roswell in April 2011, what has changed at Gulfstream since the accident, and we will recommend ways to further identify and mitigate risk in flight testing in the future.

Dr. Mayer, will you please introduce the staff.