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Board Meeting: Aircraft Accident Summary Report - Midair Collision Over Hudson River, Piper PA-32R-300, N71MC, and Eurocopter AS350BA, N401LH, Near Hoboken, New Jersey, August 8, 2009 - Chairman's Opening and Closing Statements, Washington, DC
Deborah A. P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Board Meeting, Midair Collision Over Hudson River, Piper PA-32R-300, N71MC, and Eurocopter AS350BA, N401LH, Near Hoboken, New Jersey, August 8, 2009, Washington, DC

I want to thank my fellow Board members for their participation in today’s discussion.  I think we have adopted a strong report that will go a long way to improving the safety of our air space, not only above the Hudson River but in all areas.

Before closing, I’d like to recognize the hard-work and dedication of the NTSB staff, particularly the staff of the Office of Aviation Safety and Office of Research and Engineering.  As I have often said, while the Board members sit here on the dais today, it is the staff who, day-in and day-out, work to uncover the facts, develop the findings and recommendations, and produce the report. 

On behalf of my fellow Board members, I thank you, staff, for conducting such a comprehensive investigation and preparing this excellent report, and also for your work issuing 5 urgent safety recommendations immediately after the accident.

As we discussed today, this collision could have been prevented.  But a series of missteps – including controllers distracted from their duties and pilots who failed to maintain situational awareness – overrode the safety benefits achieved through technology in the tower and in the cockpit.  While traffic alerts go a long way in helping pilots “see and avoid” other aircraft, these technologies are not, in and of themselves, enough to keep us safe.  Strong operating procedures, professionalism, and commitment to the task at hand – these are all essential to safety.

Prior to the accident this was crowded and challenging airspace with few restrictions or requirements.  I commend the FAA and NATCA for all they have done this past year to improve the airspace in and around the New York City area.  That being said, I am hopeful that in light of today’s deliberations and new recommendations, we will see this same sense of urgency and commitment by the regulators and industry to usher in additional safety improvements.

While we can’t redial the clock or reset the compass or retrace our missteps, we can learn from and improve upon what we know.

As the late author and politician, John Enoch Powell, so succinctly captured, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

Thank you.  We stand adjourned.