Robert L. Sumwalt III was sworn in as the National Transportation Safety Board’s 14th chairman for a two-year term following his nomination by President Donald Trump.
Sumwalt has been serving as the acting chairman since March 31. He has been with the NTSB since 2006 when he was appointed as the 37th member of the board. President George W. Bush designated him as vice chairman for a two-year term, and President Barack Obama reappointed him to an additional five-year term as a board member in 2011.
The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.
“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.”
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 a chariman with Senate confirmation. The President also designates a board member as vice chairman without requiring Senate confirmation.
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.
Before joining the NTSB, Sumwalt was a pilot for 32 years with Piedmont Airlines and US Airways. During his tenure at US Airways he worked on special assignment to the flight safety department and also served on the airline’s Flight Operational Quality Assurance monitoring team. He 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.