Congress Nominates Familiar Face for NTSB Chairman

By S.L. Fuller | July 18, 2017
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Robert Sumwalt NTSB

Robert Sumwalt NTSB. Photo courtesy of the NTSB

Correction — In our original item July 18, we misconstrued the phrasing of the White House’s notice and incorrectly reported that President Trump also had nominated Christopher Hart to be NTSB vice chairman. He was not so nominated. We apologize to him and to you, our readers, for the publication of that error, which was my responsibility and mine alone. —The Editor

U.S. Congress has nominated Robert Sumwalt III to serve as NTSB chairman. Sumwalt served as acting chairman, before his term as a presidential appointee expired in December. Congress said the nomination was received from President Donald Trump at the end of June.


Helicopter Assn. International (HAI) and National Business Aviation Assn. (NBAA) have given their support for Sumwalt’s nomination.

“Mr. Sumwalt has an extensive background in airlines, general aviation and safety,” said Matthew Zuccaro, president and CEO of HAI. “He has also been one of the staunchest supporters of safe helicopter operations. Because of his vast range of experience, we offer his nomination our strongest support, and we look forward to continuing a strong, productive relationship with the NTSB under his guidance.”

“Robert is a stalwart advocate of safety, not only for business aviation, but for all of aviation,” said Ed Bolen, NBAA president and CEO. “His strong leadership and the resulting increase in implementation of safety programs benefits aircraft operators, travelers and the greater transportation industry.”

Sumwalt was appointed by then-President George W. Bush in August 2006. He was given a two-year term as vice chairman. November 2011, he was re-appointed to a second five-year term as a board member by then-President Barack Obama.

We highlighted Sumwalt's extensive experience in aviation safety in our February 2017 issue. At that point, Sumwalt wanted to stay part of the NTSB for a few more months, but was unsure about the future beyond that. From all his years of experience, his key message to the industry was about safety:

“When it comes to safety, you don’t have to go out and save an entire world. You only need to keep one person from getting into trouble in a helicopter. If you have done that, it is as if you have saved an entire world,” Sumwalt said. “Admittedly, though, the paradox is that you probably never will be able to fully appreciate just what you’ve done. In many cases, you have prevented a problem from ever being introduced into the system.”

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