Regulatory, Safety

NTSB Celebrates 50 Years of Independence, 5,600 Aviation Safety Recommendations

By S.L. Fuller | May 17, 2017
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Image courtesy of NTSB 50th anniversary video.

Image courtesy of NTSB

As R&WI is putting the finishing touches on its special 50th anniversary May/June issue, there is another entity in the rotorcraft world celebrating its Golden Year: the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). To date, it has issued upward of 5,600 safety recommendations in aviation alone.

The NTSB prides itself on, along with achievements in safety, its independence. Although the president nominates its board members, and used to be within the Transportation Dept., the NTSB is not an arm of the FAA or any other government agency. This year marks 50 years since Congress made it so.

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The board says its origins are in the Air Commerce Act of 1926. About 90 years ago, Congress gave the Commerce Dept. the duty of investigating causes of aircraft accidents. That responsibility changed hands to the Civil Aeronautics Board’s Bureau of Aviation Safety in its creation in 1940. 27 years later, the NTSB was placed within the Transportation Dept. (for administrative purposes, the board said) and became an independent agency. Since then, the board has conducted countless investigations for railways, pipelines, airliners, sea vessels, buses and more.

The NTSB has marked its anniversary with a video, recounting some of its most impactful achievements. Though the video lacks mention of anything helicopter-related, R&WI will lend some help. Here is some of our NTSB coverage in the last decade:

In March, the NTSB determined the probable cause of the July 2015 crash of an Air Methods Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3e. This crash also emphasized the need for expanded exploration in to crash-resistant fuel tanks.

Bell 525 Prototype

Bell 525 prototype. Photo courtesy of Bell Helicopter

The NTSB’s investigation into the Bell Helicopter 525 prototype flight test crash is ongoing, with very little information released to the public at this point. When we obtain more information, our readers will be the first to know.

An EagleMed Airbus AS350 B2 fatally crashed in Oklahoma City in February 2013. The subsequent NTSB investigation resulted in changes made by the operator, as well as the release of safety documents by Honeywell, Airbus and the FAA concerning snowy and icing conditions.

In 2013, the NTSB published nine new recommendations following the investigation of an August 2011 Eurocopter AS350 B2 fatal crash in Mosby, Montana. Included was a suggestion for the prohibition of the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices during pre-flight safety checks and ground operations, in addition to policies restricting use in flight.

The investigation into the December 2011 crash of a Sundance Helicopters Eurocopter AS350 in Las Vegas led the NTSB to recommend that the FAA establish duty-time regulations for maintenance personnel. The board also encouraged recurring training and promoted the recording and verification of delineated steps for all maintenance personnel performing inspections under some regulation parts.

Two years after an investigation into the 2009 hard landing of an Alaska State Trooper helicopter, the NTSB issued recommendations on mast-rocking for the Robinson Helicopter Co. R44.

In 2010, the NTSB made airspace recommendations following the investigation of a 2009 mid-air collision of a Liberty Helicopters Eurocopter AS350 BA and Piper PA-32R-300 over the Hudson River.

The NTSB voted unanimously in 2009 to recommend all news gathering operations forbid pilots from doing on-air reporting while flying. This followed an investigation into the July 2007 fatal mid-air collision of two news helicopters in Phoenix.

An NTSB investigation into the January 2006 non-fatal crash of a Sunshine Helicopters Eurocopter AS350 BA in Hawaii yielded changes from Turbomeca and an airworthiness directives from the FAA.

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