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Robert L. Sumwalt III was sworn in as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)’s 14th chairman during a brief ceremony held in Washington on Aug. 10.
Sumwalt’s nomination for a two-year term by President Donald Trump was confirmed by the Senate Aug. 3. Sumwalt has been serving as the agency’s acting chairman since March 31, 2017, and has been a NTSB member since August 2006.
Acting managing director Dennis Jones presided over the ceremony attended by NTSB staff.
“The NTSB is commemorating 50 years of making transportation safer yesterday, today and tomorrow and I am humbled and honored to have the privilege of guiding the dedicated men and women of the NTSB as we take on the challenges of transportation safety in the 21st century,” said Sumwalt.
“Transportation technologies continue to advance and the NTSB must continue to increase the breadth and depth of our knowledge and understanding of transportation innovations such as autonomous vehicles, intelligent infrastructure, commercial space transportation, hyper-speed rail, solar-powered planes, and new recording technologies. That knowledge enables us to craft safety recommendations that leverage technology to prevent accidents and save lives.”
Sumwalt tenure with the NTSB began in August 2006 with his appointment as the 37th member of the NTSB, whereupon President George W. Bush designated him as vice chairman for a two-year term. President Barack Obama reappointed Sumwalt to an additional five-year term as a board member in November 2011.
Before joining the NTSB Sumwalt was a pilot for 32 years, including 24 years with Piedmont Airlines and U.S. Airways, accumulating more than 14,000 flight hours. During his tenure at U.S. Airways he worked on special assignment to the flight safety department and also served on the airline’s flight operational quality assurance monitoring team.
Sumwalt chaired the Air Line Pilots Association’s Human Factors and Training Group and co-founded the association’s critical incident response program. He also spent eight years as a consultant to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System and has written extensively on aviation safety matters.
The NTSB has five board members, each nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve five-year terms. By statute, the president designates, with Senate confirmation, a chairman. The president also designates a board member as vice chairman, however, Senate confirmation is not required for the vice chairman.
The vice chairman and chairman each serve two-year terms. When there is no designated chairman, the vice chairman serves as acting chairman. Board members whose terms expire may remain on the board until their replacement is appointed.