Aviation board's expertise at issue (NTSB)

  WASHINGTON - The longest-serving member of the National Transportation Safety Board is leaving office with a warning that the board is losing its technical expertise, and that lack of aircraft maintenance is a threat to aviation safety.

The board member, John J. Goglia, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, and his second term expired at the end of last year. Goglia, 59, the only airline mechanic ever to be a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, will serve until today, and his successor, Deborah Hersman, 33, a senior member of the Democratic staff of the Senate Commerce Committee, is to be sworn in on Monday.

John Goglia - retiring

His departure leaves the board with a single member with extensive aviation technical experience, Richard F. Healing, a longtime director of safety and survivability for the Navy. Another member with a technical background, George W. Black, a civil engineer and highway-safety specialist, was replaced in January 2003.

As a result, Goglia said, ``power has shifted to the staff.'' The board has a staff of mechanical engineers, metallurgists, computer scientists and human-factors experts who prepare reports that the five board members then debate, amend and approve.

Federal law requires that three members of the board have backgrounds in areas relevant to transportation safety, but nominees can qualify by having a background in regulation.

Before his appointment, Goglia was a crash investigator for the International Association of Machinists. He plans to become a safety consultant specializing in aviation and railroads.

Asked about Goglia's statement that the board was losing expertise, Ellen Engleman Connors, the chair of the board and a former head of the Transportation Department's division in charge of hazardous-materials transportation, said, ``I vehemently disagree.''

``The board members are not the investigators, but the policy-makers,''
Connors said. Using the lingo that crash investigators use to describe themselves, she said, ``We're not the tin kickers.''

Carol J. Carmody, another member, who has twice served as acting chair and had worked for years at the Federal Aviation Administration and as the U.S.
representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization, said, ``The board is enriched by having people who are varied.''

She said Goglia had made a major contribution but that ``I do not think board members need to be investigators.''

After the crash of a ValuJet DC-9 in 1996 because of a maintenance problem, Goglia, an expert on FAA regulations, persuaded his colleagues on the board to amend the staff's report to list the airline's lapses in the statement of probable cause. The FAA rules make the airline responsible for maintenance work performed by third-party contractors.

Maintenance problems were the cause of two widely publicized airliner crashes, he said.


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Deborah Hersman was sworn in today as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Before joining the Board, Member Hersman was a senior professional staff member of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for the last 5 years.
Prior to that, she served as Staff Director and Senior Legislative Aide to Congressman Bob Wise of West Virginia from 1992 to 1999.

In her Senate position, Member Hersman was responsible for the legislative agenda, oversight and policy initiatives for surface transportation issues, including railroad regulation, safety and passenger issues; truck and bus safety; pipeline safety; and hazardous materials transportation safety. She was also extensively involved with aviation and maritime issues. She also worked on transportation security issues following the attacks of September 11.

She was a key staff member involved in the passage of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, which created a new truck and bus safety administration within the Department of Transportation; the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002; and numerous transportation safety and security measures. She also worked extensively on issues related to Amtrak.

Member Hersman earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and International Studies from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, and a Master of Science degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Member Hersman's term expires December 31, 2008.


Richard F. Healing was sworn in as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board on March 28, 2003.

Before joining the Safety Board, Mr. Healing had been Director of Transportation Safety and Security for the Battelle Memorial Institute since March 2002. Based in Washington, DC, he had primary responsibility for Battelle’s relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Prior to this, Mr. Healing had served since 1985 as Director, Safety and Survivability, for the Department of the Navy.

During his Navy civilian career, his work focused on aviation safety and emphasized benefits from sharing military safety information with other aviation community participants, especially commercial aviation.

In 2001, Mr. Healing was presented the Navy’s highest civilian award - the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal. He also was recognized with the SAFE International “General Spruance Award” for safety education achievement, and an Aviation Week “Laurel” for bringing new awareness to the importance of wire health and condition monitoring technology in aviation. Other awards include the Navy Superior Public Service Medal for creating the Navy’s Safety Non-Developmental Items program, and the Defense Superior Service Medal for active military service during Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

Before coming to Washington in 1983, Mr. Healing was President and CEO of an engineering, construction and contracting services firm in Connecticut. He also was Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Fairfield Precision Industries, a manufacturer of replacement parts for the military.

A licensed Professional Engineer since 1974, Mr. Healing attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He pursued graduate studies at the University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport Engineering Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Harvard University, and Georgetown University. He graduated from the Naval War College in 1990, and was selected to participate on the President’s Commission on Executive Exchange. In 1991, he was a Senior Executive Fellow at Harvard University.

Mr. Healing served 6½ years active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. After more than 29 years and four commands, he retired from the Coast Guard Reserve as a Captain.

Mr. Healing’s term as Board Member expires on December 31, 2006.

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