NBAA welcomes “compelling” appointment of new NTSB chairman


Robert Sumwalt

The National Business Aviation Association has welcomed the appointment of Robert L. Sumwalt III as the 14th chair of the National Transportation Safety Board.

It says that Sumwalt’s extensive career in aviation makes him a “compelling choice” to head an organisation that is dedicated to improving aviation safety.

Sumwalt (pictured) will lead the NTSB for two years.

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

“We look forward to working with him in his capacity as chair of the NTSB.”

Sumwalt, a former member of the NBAA’s safety committee, managed a small flight department for a utility company in South Carolina before being appointed to the NTSB in August 2006, when he was also designated vice chairman of the board for a two-year term. In November 2011, President Barack Obama appointed him to another five-year term as a board member, and he was again designated vice chairman on 31 March, 2017.

While on the board, Sumwalt has led teams of NTSB investigators and other parties as the member on-scene for several significant investigations, including the crash of an emergency medical services helicopter in Georgetown, SC in 2009, a Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1A accident in Thompson, GA in 2013, and an Embraer Phenom 100 accident in Gaithersburg, MD in 2014.

In addition to his career in business aviation, he was a pilot for 24 years with Piedmont Airlines and US Airways, where he was on a special assignment to the flight safety department and served on the company’s flight operations quality assurance monitoring team. He was also a consultant to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System.

Bolen added: “Sumwalt is a frequent and engaging presenter at NBAA safety events, where he shares his wealth of knowledge with attendees. His focus on safety leadership has helped promote the importance of proactive safety management. Further, his diligent work on safety awareness and leadership has greatly influenced business aviation, guiding the industry’s voluntary adoption of safety programs that have demonstrated real value in helping improve business aviation safety.”

Corporate Jet Investor asked Robert Sumwalt III some questions on his new appointment:

(CJI) What do you hope to achieve in your time at the NTSB in respect of business aviation?
(RS) “The accident rate for professionally flown two-person business aircrafts has been comparable to that of scheduled airlines in the past few years. We hope that record will continue to get even better. With all of that said, recently, we have seen accidents involving business aircraft that show disturbing indications of a lack of management controls for safety and poor crew discipline, including a lack of following procedure. We have issued recommendations in each of those areas, and we would like to see action on the recommendations.”

(CJI) What do you bring to the position?
(RS) “We have great people and a great mission, and we are a very good agency. I want us to be the best transportation safety agency. I am confident that the work that we do will elevate us to be world-class.”

(CJI) Do you think that a two-year appointment is long enough for you to get things done?
(RS) “I’m honoured to have the opportunity to lead this agency for two years, and I know that we can make significant strides in that time.”