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General Aviation Safety Issues - Chairman's Opening Remarks
Deborah A. P. Hersman
General Aviation Safety Issues - 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 NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board members: Vice Chairman Christopher Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener.

Today, we meet before the start of the busy flying season to address general aviation safety. Over the last decade, the number of GA accidents has averaged more than 1,500 a year -- that's more than four every day. More than 5,200 people have perished in these accidents. During this same time period, the GA accident rate has plateaued with repeated crashes and needless loss of life.

While there is much safety work being done across the GA community through efforts like the GA Joint Steering Committee with its FAA and AOPA co-chairs, and by other organizations, such as the Flight Safety Foundation, NBAA, GAMA, and EAA, today we meet to discuss what we, the NTSB, can do to help bring the accident rate down.

I see three steps. The first is to understand what is causing the accidents. The next step is identifying preventive strategies. And, the last step: getting the word out to the GA community.

First, understanding. The NTSB is charged with investigating every civil aviation accident. Our investigators see firsthand the causes and the contributors. This morning, we will hear more from our safety experts about what they see on the job every day.

Second, identify preventive strategies. Last year, we held a two-day forum drawing on experts across the GA community. It's why GA safety is on our Most Wanted List and why one of our Board members, Earl Weener, is leading those activities. It's also why we have a team of safety experts to build on what they have learned in years of investigating GA accidents.

Third, get the word out to GA pilots and maintenance technicians. This is essential. You can have the best accident prevention strategies in the world, but unless they are communicated effectively to people who need to know and who will benefit the most, they won't save a single life.

This is why I am so pleased that we have with us today the greatest experts on the current battle to improve general aviation safety, the people who serve on the front lines every day: NTSB regional investigators. They serve as one-person investigative teams, often climbing mountains to access remote accident sites, dealing with victims' families, answering media questions, coordinating with local officials and making sense out of burned and fragmented parts. What they do is nothing short of extraordinary. But, the 57 regional investigators do it hundreds of times a year.

In addition, they serve as safety ambassadors to the general aviation community. They attend local drills and speak to pilots, first responders, flight students and more about how to improve GA safety. And, through the relationships they have built on the ground, they have created some real safety accomplishments, more than 400 between 2008 and 2012.

Here's an example: After a fatal accident, our investigator worked with officials at a North Carolina airport to improve its lighting system. Done. No official NTSB safety recommendation from Washington was needed.

I know I speak for the Board when I say "Thank you" to those in the field who are doing such excellent work.

Dr. Mayer, will you please introduce the staff.