NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman


When National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah Hersman last spoke at Communicating for Safety (CFS) in 2010, she praised controllers for the role they play in keeping the number of runway incursions low while challenging the FAA to do more to lower the risk of these types of accidents. She also cited fatigue as a key area the NTSB was focusing on and noted the early progress that NATCA and the FAA were making at that time to establish a working group to address fatigue. In addition, Chairman Hersman invited NATCA to participate in a forum on controller-pilot excellence and professionalism, which turned out to be a successful early milestone in NATCA’s establishment of a professional standards program. When she returns to the CFS stage on March 5th, 2013, Chairman Hersman – recognized as one of the nation’s most visionary and passionate safety leaders – is likely to address each of these topics again in a positive way. In November 2012, NATCA was pleased when Chairman Hersman announced that the NTSB had decided to drop fatigue and pilot and air traffic controller professionalism from its “Most Wanted” list of transportation safety issues for 2013. NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said the NTSB’s decision validated the progress that NATCA and the FAA are making on both issues.


March 5th, 2013 Highlights

When National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Deborah Hersman spoke to CFS attendees in 2010, she asked NATCA members to work on three things: runway safety, fatigue and professionalism. On Tuesday afternoon, Hersman said that three years and 150 million operations later, she is delighted to be a part of CFS once again and provide an update, which includes that two of the three things she asked NATCA members to work on in 2010 have since been removed from the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of advocacy priorities. Hersman said NATCA members contribute every day to what is arguably the world’s safest aviation system, and as more people realize what cuts to the federal budget could mean, it is understood that the work of air traffic controllers contributes immensely to the nation’s economy and to every American’s quality of life. “Today, especially as we face these fiscal challenges, I want to focus on something that comes from within - your dedication to excellence,” said Hersman. Hersman then shared a story of a general aviation flight that ran into mechanical trouble and crashed in January this year. She explained how the controllers did everything they could, and the crash was not due to lack of controller effort, ingenuity or determination. The NTSB investigator on the case was deeply impressed by the involved controllers’ commitment, their compassion and their dedication to excellence. The investigator also said what stuck with her was how humble the controllers were. Each one pointed out the good things the other members of the team did. “That’s professionalism,” said Hersman. “That story and others like it, plus the millions of safe operations every year, are a powerful testament to your dedication to excellence.” Hersman also discussed NATCA’s antidistraction campaign, “Turn Off and Tune In.” The topic of distractions in the workplace was added to the NTSB’s Most Wanted List this year and she praised NATCA leadership for implementing the campaign. In addition, she commended NATCA and the FAA for their leadership and commitment in mitigating fatigue and for rolling out the Professionalism Standards Program. In closing, Hersman said, “Your goal is dedication to excellence, safe operations, saving lives and guiding people home. It doesn’t get any better than that.”