John Hammerschmidt, the newly designated acting chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, is a private pilot with a good understanding of the realities of general aviation. He was named late last week to replace Carol Carmody, whose term expired on Saturday. Hammerschmidt will serve as acting chairman until President Bush appoints and the Senate confirms a new chairman.
In 2001, Hammerschmidt and fellow board member John Goglia, an airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanic, took the unusual step of opposing an NTSB request that the FAA issue an overly broad mandatory airworthiness directive (AD). Most NTSB recommendations are unanimous. The AD would have required the removal and inspection of the main landing gear on Cessna 170, 180, 185, 190, and 195 aircraft. AOPA also opposed the AD because the number of landing gear failures did not justify a mandatory AD.
In 1997, at a public meeting to review the final report on a fatal runway collision accident, Hammerschmidt praised the AOPA Air Safety Foundation for publishing its Operations at Nontowered Airports Safety Advisor in the accident's aftermath.
Brandishing a copy of the Safety Advisor at the meeting, Hammerschmidt said, "This Air Safety Foundation pamphlet is an excellent review of how to operate safely at a nontowered airport. It's a 14-page refresher course. It's much easier to follow than government publications on the subject."
Hammerschmidt has served more than 17 years as a member of the NTSB. He has headed the on-scene investigations of such high-profile accidents as the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 into the Pacific Ocean in 2000 and the 1994 crash of a DC-9 in Charlotte, N.C. He's also headed the investigations of such non-aviation accidents as the sinking of the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru by the USS Greenville and a gasoline pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Wash., which killed three youths.
AOPA and the Air Safety Foundation look forward to working with Acting Chairman Hammerschmidt to continue the steadily improving safety record among general aviation pilots.