Posts Tagged ‘National Transportation Safety Board’

NTSB Wants Inward, Outward Cameras

September 6, 2017

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that all commuter trains and streetcars have inward-facing and outward-facing video cameras with sound.

The NTSB made that recommendation in response to a Feb. 17 collision in Philadelphia of two Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority subway trains, injuring four.

Neither of the trains involved in that collision was equipment with video or audio equipment

In its report, the NTSB cited a list of incidents in which video imagery would have helped determine a cause of an accident.

The safety panel has previously recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration require cameras on intercity and commuter trains.


NTSB Cites Crew Error in Aug. 2 CSX Derailment

August 23, 2017

The National Transportation Board said on Tuesday that its preliminary findings of the cause of an Aug. 2 derailment of a CSX train in Pennsylvania point to human error.

Investigators said the train had 33 handbrakes applied when it derailed.

The report said the 18,000-ton train had stopped on a descending grade and found a leak in an air line toward the rear of the manifest freight.

The crew set hand brakes on 58 cars and called a mechanical service employee to fix the leak.

The first crew outlawed under the hours of service law and a second crew was called in to take over the rain.

That relief crew believed the train still was having air brake problems. It released 25 hand brakes and switched from train braking to dynamic breaking three times as it descended the grade.

The derailment occurred as the train rounded a curve. The 35th car, an empty, left the tracks and 33 more cars also derailed.

This included hazardous materials cars that ignited and burned, forcing the evacuation of Hyndman, Pennsylvania, for more than 48 hours.

In the report, investigators said that the wheels of several cars had flat spots, built-up tread and blued steel from the hand brakes keeping wheels from turning or turning as intended.

Originating in Chicago, the train, Q388, was bound for Selkirk, New York, and had 178 cars and five locomotives at the time of the derailment.

Sumwalt Confirmed to Head NTSB

August 9, 2017

Robert Sumwalt has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a two-year term as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

He succeeds Christopher Hart who remains a member of the board. Sumwalt has served on the board since 2006. Prior to joining the NTSB, he was manager of aviation for the SCANA Corp.

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding 45%

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration wants to slash Amtrak funding by 45 percent in fiscal year 2018.

The detailed budget proposed released this week proposed giving Amtrak $744 million.

In the current fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.4 billion. The cuts for next year include ending $289 for Amtrak’s long-distance train routes.

The budget document described long-distance trains as “a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today, communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network.”

The document said Amtrak’s long-distance trains represent the greatest amount of Amtrak’s operating losses, serve relatively small populations, and have the worst on-time record.

The Trump administration would instead appropriate $1.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

[The Northeast Corridor] “faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues,” the budget document said.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding for the development of New York’s Penn Station by 64 percent from $14 million to $5 million.

The Amtrak funding cuts make up the lion’s share of the 37 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Transportation, would receive $16.2-billion in FY 2018, a decline of 12.7 percent over what it received in FY 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would drop by 37 percent from $1.7 billion to $1.05 billion while Federal Transit Administration will decline by 5 percent from its FY 2017 appropriation of $11.8 billion.

The FTA would receive $11.2 billion, which includes $9.7 billion for transit formula grants. The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for new starts would be cut by 43 percent from $2.16 billion to $1.2.

Funding would be continued only for programs that FTA is legally bound to support through full-funding grant agreements.

Funding for the Transportation Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be eliminated.

The budget document said projects that are attempting to receive TIGER funding could still earn grants through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects fund managed by DOT’s Build America Bureau.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation programs would remain in place, but receive no additional funding.

The National Transportation Safety Board would receive $106 million, which is no change from FY 2017.

The Surface Transportation Board would receive a $5 million boost to $37 million in order to implement regulatory changes under the STB reauthorization law of 2015.

The Trump administration budget proposal is likely to undergo numerous changes as Congress considers federal funding priorities for FY 2018.

Sumwalt Named as NTSB Vice Chairman

April 7, 2017

The Trump administration has named Robert L. Sumwalt as vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

President Donald Trump said he plans to nominate Sumwalt for another five-year term on the board.

Sunwalt will replace as vice chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr, whose duties in that position  ended this week.

Dinh-Varr had served as acting chairman since March 16 and remains a board member.

The NTSB has five members, all of whom are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve five-year terms.

The NTSB also said that it was 50 years ago this week that it conducted its first investigation, a probe of a plane crash at Lexington, Kentucky, on April 3, 1967.

The board has since issued more than 2,400 safety recommendations for railroads, more than 200 recommendations in intermodal transportation, and several thousand additional recommendations for other modes of transportation.

NTSB Acting Chairman Named

March 20, 2017

Bella Dinh-Zarr has been named as acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board after the term of incumbent Chairman Christopher Hart expired last week.

Hart remains a member of the five-member board and had served as chairman since March 2015.

He had served as acting chairman for nearly a year before being nominated by the Obama administration to be the permanent chairman.

Dinh-Zarr has served as vice chairman since March 2015. Before joining the NTSB, she served as director of the U.S. Office of the FIA Foundation, an international philanthropy organization that promotes safe and sustainable transportation.
NTSB members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. By law, a board member is designated by the president to be the chairman while another is designated to be the vice chairman for two-year terms.

Pilot Error Blamed for 2015 Akron Crash

October 23, 2016

Pilot error was blamed for the crash in Akron last year of a private jet that killed nine people, but a National Transportation Safety Board report also singled out a poor safety culture at the company that owned the plane and lax FAA inspectors.

NTSBThe crash of the Hawker 125-700 jet while on final approach to Akron Fulton International Airport occurred on Nov. 10, 2015, in the Ellet neighborhood in low-visibility conditions.

The plane struck an apartment building and one person on the ground was injured.

The plane, leased by Augusto Lewkowicz of Execuflight in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was on a flight from Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport.

The seven passengers were employees of Pebb Enterprises of Boca Raton, Florida, and they had been looking at locations for shopping centers. All of them resided in Florida.

At the time of the crash, the plane was being flown by first officer Renato Marchese, 50. The captain was Oscar Chavez, 40.

The NTSB concluded that the crash resulted from the flight crew’s “mismanagement of the approach and multiple deviations from company standard operating procedures which placed the airplane in an unsafe situation.”

Before the crash, Marchese had slowed the speed of the jet because, the NTSB said, it was likely that Chavez had expressed concerns about another aircraft in the region.

The plane should have been traveling at about 165 mph, or 144 knots, on its approach but instead was flying at 125 mph, or 109 knots. The wing flaps should have been in a different position than they were.

As a result, the jet stalled and crashed two miles from the airport. The plane’s left wing tilted toward the ground, clipped utility wires, hit the ground and struck the apartment building.

The crew also had miscalculated the weight of passengers, luggage and fuel, and failed to go through a required checklist as they approached the airport.

NTSB investigators also found the pilots were fatigued at the time of the flight, but no evidence was found of drug or alcohol use by either pilot.

Nor did investigators find any structural defects that would have affected the jet’s performance.

Some of those killed in the crash might have survived had it not been for a fire that broke out after impact.

The NTSB said Chavez had been fired from a previous job for failing to show up for recurrent training. Marchese had been fired from a previous job for “significant performance deficiencies.”

The NTSB said that ExecuFlight did not do a follow-up evaluation on the reasons why the two pilots were terminated from their previous employers.

The safety board also faulted ExecuFlight  for have a casual attitude that set a poor example to pilots and for operational safety. The company lacked a safety management system designed to establish and reinforce a positive safety culture, the NTSB said.

A former Execuflight employee said that the company’s owner ordered him to lie to investigators in the wake of the crash. The former employee told NTSB investigators that ExecuFlight destroyed or altered flight records after the crash.

Two days after the NTSB report was released, ExecuFlight released a statement disputing the NTSB’s report.

Execuflight said it conducted complete background checks on the two pilots who were flying the plane and that both had successfully completed a training program.

“We’re regretful for the crash, but we don’t feel responsibility,” ExecuFlight CEO Leskowicz told WOIO-TV in Cleveland. “We didn’t do anything in that crash as a company to set it up for that.”

Leskowicz said his company did everything it was supposed to do in all legal areas of aviation, from hiring to training. He contended that Chavez had left his previous position voluntarily.

“Sometimes pilots require additional training,” he said. “That was not the case for these people. So it caught us all by surprise.”

Leskowicz blamed other factors for the crash including weather conditions and mistakes made by air traffic controllers in Akron. Specifically, he said the latter included miscommunication during a shift change.

Cracked Tank Shell Eyed as Leading Cause of W.Va. Rail Tank Car Clorine Leak Last August

October 21, 2016

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary finding that a cracked tank shell was the leading cause of a chlorine-gas tank car leak at a West Virginia chemical facility in August.

NTSBThe NTSB said the DOT-105-type tank car experienced a sudden tank shell crack shortly after being filled with liquefied compressed chlorine at a Axiall Corporation railcar loading facility in New Martinsville.

The 90 tons of chlorine began leaking two hours after the crack developed, forming a cloud that drifted from the railcar facility located on the Ohio River.

Five Axiall employees and three contractors were treated for exposure to the toxic gas and plants and trees in the cloud’s path were damaged.

The NTSB report said the car in question was built in 1981 by ACF Industries and had a water capacity of 17,380 gallons.

The type of ACF-manufactured under frame on the car had been identified by the Federal Railroad Administration as being linked to developing cracks and shell buckling.

A five-year inspection conducted on the car in January 2016 by Rescar, a railcar maintenance and leasing company, found numerous corrosion pits in the bottom section of the tank shell.

Repair work done on the car at that time included interior cleaning, ultrasonic thickness testing, removing internal corrosion, welds buildup, and post-weld stress-relief heat treatments.

Following the leak, investigators determined that the car had experienced buckling in the tank shell between the end of the stub sill reinforcing tab and other adjacent weld spots.

Other areas of repair to the tank car shell measured below the minimum allowed thickness of 0.748 inch.

‘Accident’ or ‘Crash?’ Both Might Be Accurate Terms But Don’t Quite Mean the Same Thing

April 20, 2016

As a professional writer, I pay close attention to the words I use to convey information and express thoughts.

Hence, I took an interest in a recent discussion on a railfan chat list in the wake of an incident in which an Amtrak train struck a backhoe 15 miles south of Philadelphia.

Two Amtrak maintenance-of-way workers were killed and 30 passengers aboard the train suffered minor injuries.

The online discussion focused, in part, on the use of the word “accident” to describe what happened.

On TransportationA poster in the thread asserted that because events such as the one in which the train struck the backhoe are preventable many in the railroad and regulatory fields now call them collisions or crashes rather than accidents.

That’s because the word “accident” suggests that no one was at fault.

If the two construction workers had been killed after being struck by a meteor, that would be an accident because no rules were violated and, hence, no one was at fault. It would have been the proverbial act of God.

The poster was correct that the incident involving the backhoe was preventable. A piece of construction equipment doesn’t just happen to find its way onto a railroad track over which trains are operating at better than 100 miles per hour.

Someone made a mistake. A rule was violated and it is often said that every rule in every rule book of every railroad is written in blood.

But does that meant that if a rules violation leads to injury or death that it is not an accident, but a collision, a crash, or even an incident?

I would describe it as an accident because the event was unintentional.

The operator of the backhoe did not go to work intending to be struck and killed by a train.

The engineer of the train did not go to work intending to strike a piece of construction equipment and kill someone.

The passengers didn’t board the train intending to suffer personal injury.

It will be several months before the National Transportation Safety Board issues a final report that will specify which rule or rules were violated by whom and how.

Once the NTSB report is released, there may be some discussion about the adequacy of the rules and/or how they are practiced. Some might call for a revision of the rules in the name of safer practices.

In the meantime, the Federal Railroad Administration has ordered Amtrak to review its safety practices and retrain its workers.

All of this is oriented toward creating and maintaining an environment in which there are zero injuries and fatalities.

That is unlikely to occur so long as that environment involves humans because people are subject to such things as forgetfulness, lack of knowledge of the rules and procedures, lack of skill in following the rules and procedures, and engaging in poor judgment.

The business of assessing fault has consequences that transcend what caused the incident and what rule(s) were violated by whom.

Jobs might be lost, careers destroyed and thousands, if not millions, of dollars must be paid to repair damaged equipment and property, not to mention paying the medical costs for making the injured whole again.

Someone has to pay for those costs and the determination of who is fault goes a long way toward identifying who those people and companies will be.

In that context, whether the event is framed as an “accident” or a “crash” could be important in how that determination is ultimately made.

Such frames guide how people, including judges and juries in a court of law, think about what occurred and make decisions as to who owes what and how much to whom.

On the surface, the words used to describe an event might seem to be a trivial matter.

Arguably, “accident,” “crash” and “collision” all accurately describe the same thing.

Yet there can be subtle differences in how the meanings of those words are perceived and that might make a significant difference in sorting out the aftermath.

Beverly Scott Appointed to Seat on NTSB

August 3, 2015

President Barack Obama has named Beverly Scott to the National Transportation Board.

Scott previous served as the general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. She resigned that position in April 2015 following severe weather-related service disruptions.

She began her service at the agency in December 2012 and previously served as chief executive officer and general manager of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.