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Sun, Feb 27, 2011

NTSB's Hersman Addresses Code Sharing, International Investigations

Keynotes American Bar Association's Forum On Air And Space Law

In a keynote address Wednesday to the American Bar Association's Forum on Air and Space Law 2011 Update Conference, NTSB Chair Debora A.P. Hersman addressed the issues of international code sharing, as well as the NTSB's participation in aviation accident investigations in other countries.

Hersman said a number of code-sharing investigations have been conducted during her time at NTSB. "Through our investigations, we recognized that a better understanding of airline code-sharing arrangements and their role in aviation safety was needed, so we held a symposium last October," she said. "We found that there is no universal type of code-share. Whether it's a code-share partnership between a domestic main line carrier and regional air carrier, or two domestic main line carriers, or domestic and international carriers, these are complex relationships. Many mainline carriers have multiple regional partners, and some regionals fly for several mainline carriers."

Hersman said regional airlines represent more than half of the scheduled flights in the US, and that code-sharing provides consumers with convenience and accessibility, while carriers are able to expand their network without investing significant resources in lesser-used routes. She said the symposium highlighted a great deal of coordination between some airlines and their partners, particularly in the areas of auditing, operations, and the sharing of safety data. "And that's the way it should be," she said. "After all, when an airline is willing to put their name, their paint scheme and, most-importantly, their passengers into the hands of another operator, they have both the opportunity and the obligation to make sure that safety is job one."

But while a lot of carriers are reportedly going beyond the FAA minimums and even using their relationships with other carriers to "raise the bar on safety" Hersman said the bad news from accident investigations is that sometimes the FAA requirements are seen as a not just the floor, but also the ceiling for things such as qualifications and training.

On the topic of investigations on foreign soil, Hersman told those attending the conference that about 75% of the air carrier accident and incident investigations conducted by the NTSB each year now are non-US events. And of the board's seven Investigators-in-Charge, one spends almost half of his time in Africa. "In these foreign investigations, the US stakeholders – the NTSB, as well as the FAA and the manufacturer and/or operator of the aircraft – are in a position to see, first-hand, potential airworthiness issues with US products. This, in turn, provides us at the Safety Board with the information we need to make recommendations to address safety deficiencies – bringing these lessons learned home to improve the safety of our domestic fleet," she said.

And, she said, because of the assistance provided by the NTSB in their investigations, foreign governments are willing to assist when there is an issue in the U.S. She cited as examples the investigations of the Continental Connection 3407 accident, and the Miracle on the Hudson ditching, both of which involved foreign designed and manufactured airplanes. "The NTSB's investigation benefited greatly from our Canadian and French counterparts support in our understanding the performance of the aircraft during the accident," she said.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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