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National Transportation Safety Board
Official seal and emblem
Agency overview
Formed April 1, 1967
Preceding agency Civil Aeronautics Board
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters 490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington, D.C.
Employees 359 (2006)
Annual budget US$76.7 million (2006)
Agency executives Deborah Hersman, Chairman
Christopher A. Hart, Vice Chairman

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent U.S. Government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. In this role, the NTSB investigates and reports on aviation accidents and incidents, certain types of highway crashes, ship and marine accidents, pipeline incidents and railroad accidents. When requested, the NTSB will assist the military with accident investigation.[1] The NTSB is also in charge of investigating cases of hazardous waste releases that occur during transportation. Deborah Hersman was appointed as NTSB Chairman in July 2009.[2] Mark Rosenker was appointed as Vice Chairman in 2003, and served as Acting Chairman from March, 2005 to January, 2009. The agency is based in Washington, D.C..


The NTSB was established as an independent organization in 1967 and took over the regulatory and investigative functions of the Civil Aeronautics Board, among other duties. Originally established with strong ties to the U.S. Department of Transportation, these ties were later severed under the Independent Safety Board Act of 1975. The organization receives its authority from Chapter 11, Title 49 of the United States Code. It has investigated over 124,000 aviation incidents since its establishment. See NTSB History.


The board has five members appointed by the President for five year terms, one of whom is designated the chairman by the President and then approved by the Senate for a fixed 2-year term. Another member is designated as vice chairman and becomes acting chairman when there is no formal chairman.[citation needed]

No more than three of the five members can be from the same political party.[3]

Organization within the Board is composed of separate sub-offices for highway safety, maritime safety, aviation safety, railroad, pipeline, and hazardous material investigations, research and engineering, recommendations and communications, academy and administrative law judges. These sub-offices report to the Office of the Managing Director.[citation needed]


The NTSB is normally the lead organization in the investigation of a transportation accident within its sphere. However, this power can be surrendered to other organizations if the Attorney General declares the case to be linked to an intentional criminal act, although the NTSB would still provide technical support in such investigations. This occurred during the investigation of the September 11, 2001, attacks when the Department of Justice took over the investigation.[4]

An investigation of an incident within the United States typically starts with the creation of a "go team", composed of specialists in fields relating to the incident. This is followed by the designation of other organizations or corporations as parties to the investigation. The Board may then choose to hold public hearings on the issue. Finally, it will compose a final statement and may issue safety recommendations. The Board has no legal authority to implement, or impose, its recommendations, upon the causative entities. That burden falls upon regulators of the varying modalities, at either the federal or state level.[citation needed]

The NTSB may investigate incidents or accidents occurring outside the United States under certain circumstances. These may include:

  • accidents or incidents occurring to American-registered or American-owned aircraft (other than an aircraft operated by the Armed Forces or by an intelligence agency of the United States) in foreign airspace if the aircraft both departed and was scheduled to land in the United States. This has happened on rare occasion with respect to flights to and within Alaska that have crashed in Canada.[5]
  • accidents or incidents occurring to American-registered or American-owned aircraft in countries without a transportation investigative board.[6][7]

The first time that a NTSB non-criminal-act investigation under way was pre-empted or required to cease investigation was in the case of the Sept. 1, 1983 shootdown of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 by the Soviets. KAL 007 had taken off from Anchorage, Alaska, and had begun to stray, and then shot down just past Soviet territory. The N.T.S.B. office in Anchorage was notified that the plane was missing just three hours after it had come down in the Sea of Japan and immediately began to look into the matter. Shortly, after that, it was told to cease its investigation and forward to its headquarters in Washington all the material - originals and copies - it had gathered. From there, the information was sent to the State Department. James Michelangelo, chief of the N.T. S. B.'s Anchorage office, was told by headquarters that the Board was off the case and that the State Department would handle the investigation. But the investigation was referred by State Department to the International Civil Aviation Organization of the U.N.[8]

The NTSB, if asked, will also provide technical and other advice for a fee to transportation investigative boards in countries that do not have the equipment or specialized technicians available to undertake all aspects of a complex investigation.[citation needed]

See also[]


  • Air safety
  • Aviation accidents and incidents
  • Civil Aeronautics Board
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • School bus safety
  • U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
  • Vehicle inspection in the United States
  • Atomic Train a 1999 Action movie that prominently features the fictional NTSB employee John Seger (Rob Lowe) about a runaway train with a nuclear payload speeding to Denver.


  1. Template:UnitedStatesCode
  2. Stump, Jake. "Obama taps Spencer native to head agency", Charleston Daily Mail, July 10, 2009
  3. NTSB Statutes
  4. "NTSB providing technical assistance to FBI investigation" (September 13, 2001 NTSB Press Release)
  5. "ANC94GA041". Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  6. "IAD05FA023". Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  7. "DCA05RA033". 2005-02-03. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  8. KAL 007: the Cover-up, David Pearson, Summit Bokks, 1987, pp. 127-8

External links[]