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Recent high-profile commercial aviation mishaps have stretched the National Transportation Safety Board's resources to the limit and are testing the agency's ability to unravel the sorts of complex failures that lead to tragic accidents. In recognizing the enormous challenges the NTSB faces, agency Chairman Jim Hall sought a critical examination of the NTSB's ability to investigate major transportation accidents, and in particular commercial aviation accidents. The results of that study are contained in this report, the most comprehensive examination of the workings of the NTSB in the 30-year history of the agency. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, RAND used a variety of quantitative and qualitative research techniques to assess the NTSB's operations and processes. This research, conducted in the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, outlines recommendations aimed at strengthening the party process-which involves manufacturers, operators, and others in the determination of the probable cause of an accident expanding the statement of causation modernizing the NTSB's investigative procedures and streamlining its internal processes managing the agency's resources and staffing more effectively developing training opportunities for NTSB staff improving the agency's R&D facilities.

Table of Contents

  • The Institute for Civil Justice

  • Board of Overseers

  • Figures

  • Tables

  • Preface

  • Acknowledgements

    Acknowledgments

  • Abbreviations

  • Summary

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The NTSB's Role in Aviation Accident Investigation and NTSB's Operational Baseline

  • Chapter Three

    Emerging Aviation Trends: Potential Impact on Aircraft Accident Investigations

  • Chapter Four

    Aircrash Litigation: the Liability Environment in Which the NTSB Operates

  • Chapter Five

    Staffing, Workload, and Training at the NTSB

  • Chapter Six

    Improving NTSB Investigative and Operational Processes

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    History and Structure of the NTSB

  • Appendix B

    Data Anomalies and Baseline Accident Data

  • Appendix C

    NTSB "Party Pledge"

  • Appendix D

    Results from RAND Skills and Experience Questionnaire

  • Appendix E

    RAND Skills and Experience Questionnaire

  • Appendix F

    Case Study Abstracts

  • Bibliography

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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