Episode 64. Safety lessons learned at the NTSB, with Robert Sumwalt

Robert Sumwalt in cockpitThe point of an accident investigation is “to find out what happened, so that we can prevent it from happening again,” says longtime airline pilot and former NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. He shares what he's learned after decades of working this process, including: how pilots should read an NTSB report, why flight path monitoring matters, what professionalism means for GA pilots, and how flight data monitoring can improve safety. In the Ready to Copy segment, Robert talks about landmark accidents, why NOTAMs are often useless, and his favorite food from South Carolina.


  • The NTSB process: “It’s important to always balance timeliness with quality… You can complete an investigation in 30 days, but will it really have anything in it to prevent accidents?”
  • Reading accident reports: “Go into them with an open mind and try to learn.”
  • Study on flight path monitoring: “In 84% of those accidents, somebody was not properly monitoring or challenging what was going on in that cockpit.”
  • What professionalism means for GA pilots: “Professionalism boils down to doing the right things, even when no one is watching.”
  • What to learn from recent airline close calls: “Guys, it’s time to get back to basics. Let’s observe the sterile cockpit rule. Let’s actively monitor where the airplane is taxiing or flying.”

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