The National Transportation Safety Board reaches its 40th anniversary on April 1.
The NTSB opened its doors April 1, 1967. On that day, the Bureau of Safety was removed from the Civil Aeronautics Board and became the foundation for the new accident investigation agency. Since then, the NTSB has investigated about 130,000 aviation accidents and thousands of accidents in the other modes of transportation: highway, rail, marine and pipeline.
The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and major accidents in the other modes of transportation. It is not a regulatory agency; its major product is the safety recommendation, each of which represents a potential safety improvement. In its 40 years, the NTSB has issued some 12,600 safety recommendations, with an average acceptance rate of 82 percent.
The transportation system has seen many changes since the mid-1960s and experienced substantial growth. The safety of those systems also has increased dramatically, as two of the major modes illustrate.
Aviation safety has improved, in part, because investigations now feature digital flight recorders with many hundreds of parameters, where foil recorders 40 years ago provided only 5 parameters and had to be read out by hand. Equipment or operational problems can now be more readily and confidently identified. Turbine engines are so reliable that twin-engine aircraft are now allowed to fly for thousands of miles over open water. Computers have led to the development of extremely realistic flight simulators, allowing pilots to be trained to handle virtually any conceivable flight condition. Systems developed and installed on airliners - resulting at least in part from NTSB recommendations - have virtually eliminated mid-air collisions and controlled flight into terrain crashes in this country for aircraft so equipped.