No Changes Expected after NTSB Hearing on Air Show Safety

DANICA TORMOHLEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE
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Washington, DC — At the public hearing of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on January 10, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official said it’s unlikely there will be significant changes to air show and air race safety rules despite an accident at the National Championship Air Race and Air Show in Reno, NV, last September that killed 11 people and injured 70 others.

“At this point, I’m not aware of any changes — at least any significant or substantive changes — to the policy and guidance we have in place,” said John McGraw, the FAA’s deputy director of flight standards service. “If we become aware of a risk that exceeds the boundary of what we think is acceptable, we will make those changes. But not currently.”

The Reno accident — the first spectator fatalities at either air races or an air show in the U.S. in  more than half a century — as well as an uptick in pilots and other performers killed, prompted the board to take a closer look at the industry’s safety record,  according to a Boston Globe report at www.boston.com. In addition to the pilot killed in Reno, five performers — three pilots and two wing walkers — were killed during air shows last year. In the two previous years, there were no deaths, the news story reported.

“Air shows in the United States have enjoyed an extremely safe record,” said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman.

Several representatives from U.S. air shows attended the public hearing. The $300 million industry attracts 12 million spectators a year at about 300 shows, according to usatoday.com.

John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, told the safety board that additional regulations aren’t needed. “Are we regulated enough? I think we are,” Cudahy said. “But that is not to say there isn’t always room for improvement.”

To see an archived webcast of the public hearing, go to: http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2012/air_show/index.html