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PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.







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MARCH 6, 1996

Printed for the use of the

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman

WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
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HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
BILL BAKER, California
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
PETER I. BLUTE, Massachusetts
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
ZACH WAMP, Tennessee
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RANDY TATE, Washington
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois

NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
PAT DANNER, Missouri
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
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BOB FILNER, California
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi

Subcommittee on Aviation

JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee, Chairman

JERRY WELLER, Illinois, Vice-Chairman
WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
JAY KIM, California
RANDY TATE, Washington
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RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
(Ex Officio)

PAT DANNER, Missouri
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
(Ex Officio)

Subcommittee on Railroads

SUSAN MOLINARI, New York, Chairwoman

SUE KELLY, New York, Vice Chairwoman
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JAY KIM, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
(Ex Officio)

ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
(Ex Officio)


    Hall, James E., Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), accompanied by Kenneth U. Jordan, Managing Director, Daniel Campbell, General Counsel, Paul M. Voorhees, Chief, Financial Management Division, Bernard S. Loeb, Director, Office of Aviation Safety, Vernon S. Ellingstad, Director, Office of Research and Engineering, James A. Arena, Director, Office of Surface Transportation Safety, and Peter Goelz, Director of Government Affairs
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    Costello, Hon. Jerry F., of Illinois
    Lipinski, Hon. William O., of Illinois
    Menendez, Hon. Robert, of New Jersey
    Molinari, Hon. Susan , of New York
    Oberstar, Hon. James L., of Minnesota
    Wise, Robert E., Jr., of West Virginia

    Hall, James E

Hall, James E., Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

Responses to post hearing questions from Mr. Duncan
Responses to post hearing questions from Mr. Oberstar and Mr. Lipinski
Responses to post hearing questions from Ms. Molinari
Letter to Hon. Bud Shuster, Chairman, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Shuster, Hon. Bud, Chairman, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, letter from William F. Magagnus, General Manager, Precise Devices Company, Precision Instrumentation, August 8, 1995


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    Air Line Pilots Association, statement



U.S. House of Representatives,

Subcommittee on Aviation,

Subcommittee on Railroads,

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,

Washington, DC.

    The subcommittees met, pursuant to notice, at 1 p.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John J. Duncan, Jr. (chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation) presiding.

    Mr. DUNCAN. All right, we'll go ahead and get started. Ms. Molinari asked me to go ahead and start this hearing. This is a joint hearing between the Aviation Subcommittee and the Railroad Subcommittee, and we will be joined by other members shortly, but we need to move on because we have a panel also waiting to conclude the earlier hearing of the Railroad Subcommittee.
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    I am pleased to be working closely with the Railroad Subcommittee on the reauthorization of the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB is requesting a 3-year reauthorization increase in its budget of $9 million from its current funding level of $38.8 million.

    NTSB is charged with determining the probable causes of transportation accidents, and promoting transportation safety. Since NTSB has no authority to issue regulations, its effectiveness is dependent upon timely accident reports and safety recommendations.

    I am pleased to see that NTSB's average time between an aviation accident and the issuance of a safety report is now 9 months. NTSB should come to a conclusion on all accident reports as quickly as possible, since the findings from one accident may prevent future accidents.

    The NTSB is also requesting 34 additional staff in 1998; 15 of these employees would be in the aviation area. Currently, 64 percent of NTSB staff works on aviation-related issues.

    The NTSB reauthorization request also includes some statutory changes which will be discussed today, including certain exemptions from Freedom of Information Act requests.

    One area that NTSB's reauthorization does not directly address is the agency's role in international aviation accidents. As we saw in last December's American Airlines accident in Colombia, and the more recent aviation accident off the coast of the Dominican Republic, NTSB participates in accident investigations all over the world.
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    One issue I am interested in exploring is NTSB's financial responsibility for investigating aviation accidents which do not occur in the U.S. and have no U.S. passengers. Chairman Hall and others did an excellent job of negotiating financial support for investigating the accident off the coast of the Dominican Republic. As a result, NTSB will provide only a small amount of money and manpower for that investigation.

    NTSB, U.S. carriers, U.S. aircraft manufacturers, and U.S. passengers benefit from any additional accident information. However, NTSB cannot be every other country's free accident consultant. I will be interested to hear the opinions of NTSB and Chairman Hall on this topic, as well as all of these other issues.

    Finally, I want to thank the Railroad Subcommittee, both Chairwoman Susan Molinari and ranking subcommittee member Wise, for agreeing to hold a joint hearing for the NTSB. We are always asking the executive branch to be more efficient, and I think we can claim that Congress is being more efficient today by holding only one hearing on this topic.

    I now would turn to Chairwoman Molinari for any statement she wishes to make.

    [Ms. Molinari's prepared statement follows:]

    [Insert here.]

    Ms. MOLINARI. Thank you very much, Mr. Duncan. I will be very, very brief, but I do want to thank the Chair of the Aviation Committee for getting us here today to have a hearing on this reauthorization request. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do this.
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    I just want to state—and it's a little redundant, based on our last meeting—that as Chair of the Railroad Subcommittee, I can personally attest to the absolutely critical role that NTSB has played in investigating rail accidents. The past few months have been the worst for rail safety in decades.

    We've had the honor of hearing from Chairman Hall this morning about the critical work and the opinions that NTSB has in investigating these rail accidents, and I'm confident that as a result of NTSB's investigations we will have valuable information that will assist us in improving safety in the railroad industry.

    Mr. Chairman, I just ask that my entire statement be submitted for the record.

    On a very personal note, though, I do want to take this opportunity to state that when there are tragedies that occur, they affect all of us, whether as individuals or as Members of Congress, it has been extremely reassuring, as someone who just inherited the Rail Subcommittee and didn't have the extensive knowledge that I needed to deal with the hearings or to answer questions that were being put forth, it has been almost an extension of Congressional staff to have the resources of NTSB to provide the answers, to calm people's fears, and to let this country know that the answers, in terms of how did it happen and how can we stop it from happening, lie in the hands of such incredibly responsible individuals.

    It is clear from the individuals I have worked with, and particularly the Chairman, that this is a job that they do out of love. They are very committed to the responsibilities that they hold.
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    So I do want to just take this opportunity to thank some of the most impressive individuals that I've been given the honor of working with since assuming this office.

    I yield back the balance of my time.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you. And I would like to say to Chairwoman Molinari that I apologize for interrupting her earlier hearing; in fact, I offered to do this on another day, but they told me that because everybody was already here—I'm scheduled to have some very minor surgery at Bethesda Hospital this afternoon, so I appreciate your letting us interrupt.

    Ms. MOLINARI. Mr. Chairman, we have no idea when this hearing is ever going to end, so——


    Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. Thank you very much.

    I will now call on the very distinguished ranking member and good friend from Chicago, Mr. Lipinski.

    Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Madam Chairwoman. I would like to thank both of you for scheduling this hearing on the reauthorization of the National Transportation Safety Board. It is nice to have the opportunity to sit here with the chairman of my current subcommittee and the chairwoman of my former subcommittee to discuss such important issues.
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    The National Transportation Safety Board is perhaps the most respected entity anywhere in the Federal Government. Its critical work in determining the probable causes of transportation accidents and promoting transportation safety has resulted in tremendous safety lessons learned throughout the various transportation modes.

    Mr. Chairman, I would like to have the rest of my statement included in the record. Thank you very much.

    [Mr. Lipinski's, Mr. Menendez', and Mr. Wise's prepared statements follow:]

    [Insert here.]

    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you. It will be included.

    Mr. Clement.

    Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you, Chairman Duncan. I also believe, as Mr. Lipinski does, that these hearings are very important, for a very specific purpose.

    Chairman Hall, thank you and your fine staff for keeping me informed on various issues and accidents that have occurred. I am pleased to see that you have General Ken Jordan here, one of my Commanding Officers in the National Guard, a most outstanding person with whom I graduated at the University of Tennessee. I might say that I remember Mr. Hall being there, as well, our leader and mentor and special friend.
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    Opening statement, Chairman Duncan, or you don't want me to ask a question yet?

    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, if you have a statement, you can go ahead and make it; otherwise I am going to call on Chairman Clinger, and then we'll get into the questions.

    Mr. CLEMENT. That will be fine. I will wait on my questions.

    I also want to say that Mr. Duncan was up there with us during that critical period of time at the University of Tennessee, and I believe, if the record speaks for itself, we all graduated.

    Thank you.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much.

    I inadvertently but momentarily forgot my very distinguished chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, and I don't know how I ever could have done that—also the former ranking member of the Aviation Subcommittee.

    Mr. Clinger, I apologize to you, but I would call on you at this time.

    Mr. CLINGER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

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    I want to commend all graduates of the University of Tennessee.


    Mr. CLINGER. I would just take a moment to publicly share my very high regard for all of the leadership and the employees of the National Transportation Safety Board. The high degree of professionalism that you all bring to your job is absolutely remarkable and to be highly commended. I think the agency provides the American taxpayers a greater return on their dollar than virtually any other Federal activity. By developing, as you do, innovative technologies and analytical disciplines, NTSB has clearly, saved an incalculable number of lives in the discovery of engineering and design and system flaws. Equally important, as part of your investigative process, the board recommends and advocates actions to cure these faults.

    So I think that the National Transportation Safety Board is one of the unsung success stories of Government, and I commend all of you for your role in it.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.

    Chairman Howard Coble.

    Mr. COBLE. No opening statement, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

    Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much.
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    Mr. Kim.

    Mr. KIM. Thank you.

    I agree with everything said today, and have no further comments.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much.

    Mr. Hall, thank you so much for being with us. You may begin your statement.


    Mr. HALL. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and Madam Chairwoman. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you today. I would like, if I could, to recognize our Vice Chairman, Bob Francis, and the other members of the board, John Hammerschmidt; John Goglia; and George Black—that constitutes our full Board. I am pleased to note that, because this is the first time since I have served as Chairman that all of our Board seats are occupied.

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    The individuals with me at the table represent the high-priced talent, at our Board: Mr. Paul Voorhees, to my left, is our Chief of Financial Management; Dan Campbell, next to him, is our General Counsel; General Ken Jordan is our Managing Director; to my right is Dr. Bernard Loeb, who is our Director of Aviation Safety; Dr. Vern Ellingstad, who is Director of Research and Engineering, is next to Dr. Loeb; and at the end of the table is Mr. Jim Arena, our Director of Surface Transportation Safety—I'm out of order here—Mr. Arena, you all moved on me. Mr. Arena is here, Dr. Ellingstad, and Peter Goelz, on whom I will call in a moment.

    Since its inception in 1967, the National Transportation Safety Board has investigated more than 100,000 aviation accidents and thousands of accidents in surface transportation modes. While doing so, we have worked hard to earn what we believe is a reputation as the world's premiere accident investigation agency. On call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—and that's 366 this year, Mr. Chairman—our investigators travel around the world to investigate significant accidents, obtaining the facts necessary that are aimed at ensuring that such accidents never happen again.

    Mr. Chairman, since this board's last reauthorization hearing before this committee in May 1993, we have investigated about 6,300 aviation accidents; 257 highway accidents; 35 marine accidents; 30 pipeline hazardous materials accidents; and 171 railroad accidents. Since our first safety recommendation was issued, almost 10,000 recommendations in all transportation modes have been made to more than 1,250 recipients. Since 1990 the board has highlighted the most significant issues on a ''most wanted'' list of safety improvements.

    Although we have no regulatory or enforcement powers, our reputation for impartiality, insightfulness, and thoroughness has enabled us to achieve immeasurable success in shaping transportation safety improvements. For example, more than 80 percent of our recommendations have been implemented. Each time a passenger gets on an airplane, a school bus, a train, a marine vessel, or even in their own automobile, they are protected by safety features most likely emanating from Safety Board recommendations. At an annual cost of less than $0.15 per citizen, we believe the Safety Board is one of the best buys in Government.
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    During the coming years, with the likely restructuring and downsizing of Federal Government, the importance of a strong Safety Board will increase. The public expects—and I know that this committee agrees—that Government downsizing must not come at the expense of transportation safety. Our Nation's transportation system continues to grow, and here are some figures that I believe demonstrate how important the Safety Board's role will continue to be.

    As regards aviation, Mr. Chairman, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that by the year 2006, domestic aviation operations will increase by 60 percent; international operations will increase by almost 100 percent; and regional commuter operations will increase by more than 150 percent.

    Taking into account FAA projections, if the rate of accidents per flight hour remains the same as it is today, in 2006, with the growth in the industry, we could see 46 major airline accidents. By the same token, we could expect to have 20 accidents involving regional and commuter airlines.

    In highways, 10 years ago Americans drove more than 1.5 billion miles each year. Now we drive 2.4 billion miles annually. Despite that huge increase in mileage, at a time in which vehicle crashworthiness improved, seatbelt use grew, and traffic enforcement increased, highway deaths have declined from 44,200 to around 40,500 per year. However, if the accident rate just holds steady and we have the same growth again in miles traveled, we could expect more than 55,000 traffic deaths in the year 2004.

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    The other transportation modes are likely to show similar growth during the coming years. Clearly, this demonstrates the need for a strong Safety Board, and we believe the changes we are requesting to our statute are needed to continue to perform our Congressional mandate.

    Mr. Chairman, this year the board is proposing five changes to our authorizing statutes. They are, No. 1, increasing the length of the term of the Chairman; two, establishing an exemption period from FOIA requirements for information regarding foreign investigations; three, acquiring greater access to industry safety evaluation information; four, the recovery of expenses for providing slots to non-NTSB personnel attending our Accident Investigation School; and finally, the closing of the statutory loophole that threatens to entangle the NTSB in civil damage litigation. Let me briefly elaborate on each of our proposed changes.

    As regarding the length of the term of the Chairman, we believe the present statutory authority for the appointment and tenure of the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board contributes to unnecessary instability in agency leadership. The board is proposing that the Chairman's term be extended to 4 years, rather than the current 2 years. And if I could, Mr. Chairman, let me say that I consider this important. When I took this position, I was the fourth Safety Board Chairman in a 4-year period of time. I think it's extremely important that we have a longer term, similar to that which Congress acted on for the FAA to provide stability at the agency for the many outstanding employees who work there. And I say that realizing that, as the current Chairman, I am not seeking this for myself; I am seeking this for future Chairmen so that these individuals can provide the type of stability our agency needs.

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    Next, we seek a temporary exemption from FOIA of information regarding foreign investigations. Specifically, the Safety Board would like to defer, for a period of up to 2 years, the release of records and information we obtain in connection with our participation in aircraft accident and incident investigations conducted by foreign states. Because the NTSB might be required by a court to disclose foreign accident investigation information, our investigators are instructed to bring back to the United States only those records that the foreign state itself has released. This results in limited and inefficient participation by the NTSB and ultimately less material to share with the aviation industry and the American public.

    Our third request is for access to information regarding industry or carrier safety assessment programs. This authority would permit the NTSB access to information applicable to industry or carrier safety assessment programs that are ongoing and apart from the investigation of particular accidents. Some in the aviation industry are currently collecting and analyzing broad operational and maintenance data for the identification of trends or incidents that might reflect potential problems. Because many of these programs are proprietary and unrelated to any specific accident investigation, carriers and associations hesitate to provide us access because the information could be disclosed.

    This proposed amendment would mitigate private sector concern and permit NTSB access to information not currently available by protecting this information from public disclosure.

    Let me move next to the matter of participation in accident investigation schools. Current law provides for the use by NTSB of the Transportation Safety Institute of the Department of Transportation in Oklahoma City. Recently, however, NTSB accident investigation schools have been conducted locally. This amendment would give the board authority to recover expenses from non-NTSB employees who need the training, to offset the costs of the course.
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    Our next request has to do with NTSB accident reports being used as evidence in civil damage litigation. This amendment closes a loophole in existing law that threatens to entangle the board in time-consuming civil damage litigation arising out of transportation accidents. Current law bars the introduction of reports adopted by the board for use as evidence in civil litigation action. The proposed amendment will clearly state that board reports are prohibited from use not only in civil damage litigation arising out of the accident treated in the report, but also in other accident-related litigation.

    Finally, Mr. Chairman, let me discuss our authorization levels.

    The Safety Board is requesting authorization levels of $40.3 million for 350 full-time equivalents for fiscal year 1997; $46 million and 384 FTEs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1998; and $48.2 million and 384 FTEs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1999.

    The requested authorization for fiscal year 1997 is consistent with the Safety Board's 1997 Congressional budget request. The requested authorization levels for fiscal years 1998 and 1999 are at current authorized FTE levels, and reflect increases for inflation only.

    Mr. Chairman, over the years this committee and the Congress and the Appropriations Committee have invested in our agency, and we would like to take just a few minutes this morning to show you and the committee a brief videotape that highlights some of the work that our investigative staff has done over the years.
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    As you are probably aware, the investigation of any transportation accident involves hard work, highly skilled and dedicated employees, and, most important, the latest technology. With the support of this committee, the Safety Board has been able to keep abreast of the latest technological advances in the accident investigation field. One area of particular importance is the area of computer graphic reconstruction of accidents. These reconstructions are often critical in assisting investigators in understanding the vehicle and command movements during the accident sequence.

    The video that you will see demonstrates how far we have progressed in a very short period of time in our ability to graphically reconstruct accidents, thereby enabling us to learn from them and prevent them in the future.

    Mr. Peter Goelz, our Director of Government Affairs, is going to narrate the video, with your permission, sir.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Yes, sir. Go ahead, Chairman Hall.

    Mr. HALL. Mr. Goelz, if you would please proceed?

    Mr. GOELZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Clip 1 shows the 1985 in-flight upset of China Air Flight 006, a Boeing 747 en route from Taipei to Los Angeles. This is one of our earliest reconstructions. The video shows altitude, airspeed, and heading on the left-hand side, engines on the right. You will notice that engine 4 is out.
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    The reconstruction shows how the pilot, preoccupied with the loss of the engine, failed to monitor the aircraft's flight instruments and lost control of the airplane. He was cruising at 41,000 feet and did not recover stable flight until 9,500 feet.

    Despite severe structural damage, the plane landed safely at San Francisco Airport, with only two injuries among the 274 on board.

    The voices you hear are the air traffic control communications. Cockpit voice recordings are, of course, never released to the public.

    Here is where the pilot recovers stable flight, at approximately 9,000 feet altitude.

    Clip 2 is a slightly more advanced reconstruction involving the Northwest Airlines Flight 255 accident in Detroit Metropolitan County Airport. On this video, the cockpit voice recorder transcript is scrolled on the screen. The reconstruction shows the aircraft on takeoff. Just after takeoff, the plane begins to roll left, and then right.

    Right here is where the plane begins to take off. This is the rotation point. It begins to encounter trouble. It pitches a little bit to the left, to the right, to the left; then finally, strikes a pole, pitches over, strikes a building, and crashes. There were 154 fatalities on the plane, and 2 on the ground.

    The third clip, again slightly more advanced, shows the tragic accident of Flight 585, a United Airlines flight, that was on approach to Colorado Springs in 1991. Again you can see the control mechanisms on the right, which include altitude, airspeed, heading, artificial horizon, and we are again scrolling the cockpit voice recorder transcripts on the screen.
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    As the plane was on its final approach, it suddenly rolled to the right, pitched nose down in a nearly vertical manner, and crashed. This accident, unfortunately, is one where probable cause could not be determined, in part because of the limited number of parameters on the flight data recorder.

    Clip 4 shows a simulation involving USAir Flight 1994, attempting to land at Charlotte-Douglas. As you can see, it is our most advanced reconstruction to date. The aircraft was attempting to land when it encountered a severe thunderstorm, which included a wind shear. As you can see, again, because of the advances in computer graphic technology, we get a much more realistic view of the incident.

    Mr. HALL. That shows you the actual instruments as they would be operating.

    Mr. GOELZ. The data is taken off the flight data recorder. It shows the engine power on the left, the position of the control wheel in the center, then the artificial horizon, then airspeed, altitude and then heading.

    Now, as they are attempting to land, the crew decides to terminate the landing and do a missed approach, a go-around. The crew failed to recognize the wind shear situation in a timely manner, and then failed to maintain the aircraft altitude and thrust settings, and they did not escape the wind shear; 37 passengers received fatal injuries, 20 passengers plus 5 crew members survived.

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    Our last clip shows a reconstruction of a multiple highway accident near Weathersford, Texas, on July 3, 1994. A tractor-trailer truck strikes the end of a van. The van was showing its emergency lights, but was traveling in the right-hand lane at a slow rate of speed. There were 4 adults and 14 children on board. There were 14 fatalities.

    The second clip shows what would have happened had a simple radar-based collision avoidance system been on the commercial tractor. It would have indicated to the driver, here, that something was ahead, and would have signalled him again. Had this device been outfitted on the truck, this accident would not have occurred. It is a device that the Safety Board continues to be interested in exploring for use in commercial long-haul vehicles.

    That concludes our videotape.

    Mr. HALL. Mr. Chairman, you are familiar with the accidents we've had near Calhoun, Tennessee, and those forward-looking radar devices on the trucks would be something that we're looking at in technology to prevent accidents like that in the future from occurring.

    Mr. Chairman, that completes our comments. I hope my brief remarks conveyed what we believe to be the necessary support items that we need to perform our public mandate.

    Let me just say on a personal note that, having had the opportunity to do many things in public and private life, it has been a distinct honor for me to have the chairmanship of this agency, where there are so many dedicated men and women, and with the support of Congress, I think they have made so many contributions in saving lives and preventing injuries over the years.
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    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Chairman Hall.

    I'm going to go first for questions to Chairwoman Molinari.

    Ms. MOLINARI. I have no questions at this time, Mr. Chairman. I would just like to thank the NTSB for making us feel a lot more comfortable about rail safety, after watching that videotape.


    Ms. MOLINARI. Thank you.

    Mr. DUNCAN. All right.

    Mr. Lipinski.

    Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I want to say that Congressman Clement and I have been debating what the Houston Oilers should be called when they're moved to Nashville, and since we have so many Tennesseeans here today, I thought perhaps we could open it up for discussion.

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    Mr. LIPINSKI. He's interested in Tennessee Warriors. I have put forth the Tennessee Houstons; I thought that would be a better name for them, with more historical significance.

    But with those opening remarks, and since I don't have any questions for anyone, I'm going to yield the rest of my time to Congressman Clement from the great State of Tennessee.

    Mr. CLEMENT. Thank you, Mr. Lipinski. I was keeping that name that I had for Bud Adams and those at home, calling them the Tennessee Warriors—you know, Houston Oilers, Tennessee Warriors.

    Mr. DUNCAN. I like it.

    Mr. LIPINSKI. It's better than mine, Bob. I was going to go with Tennessee Lightning, after our favorite drink.


    Mr. CLEMENT. So you heard it first here, thanks to Mr. Lipinski.

    Chairman Hall, the NTSB, as we all know, is the lead investigative agency in accidents. It investigates in all modes of transportation except marine. Does this lack of authority hinder your investigations?
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    Mr. HALL. If I could, Congressman, I would like to give a rather detailed answer to that question, and let me begin by saying that the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board maintain very good channels of communication. Admiral Kramek and I have discussed this matter that you have mentioned, and we will continue to share our thoughts, agency-to-agency.

    But to be frank, there are real differences. The essence of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation is its independence, and Congress has established that independence for every mode of transportation except marine. While the National Transportation Safety Board only has the resources to investigate a dozen or so marine accidents a year, the ones that are chosen are usually quite significant. We often wish to pursue issues that the Coast Guard does not emphasize in its own investigation.

    There is also the possibility that Coast Guard oversight may itself be an issue, as it is in many of our investigations with the FAA and the FRA, which we were discussing earlier this morning. We take very seriously the independent review and oversight responsibilities that Congress gives the NTSB.

    Unfortunately, experience indicates that the existing requirement for joint rules creates a lack of a clear line of authority, resulting in higher cost to NTSB, with our investigators occasionally hamstrung by the legal technicalities that surround Coast Guard-led investigations.

    My board and I have considered the necessity for legislative change, and the board has unanimously approved that we pursue a clarification of our respective roles.
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    At first we had tried to work this matter agency-to-agency. And while I wish to commend Admiral Kramek for his very forthright and sincere statement of his views, it may be that a legislative remedy is required. I think that the Congress should take note of the fact, as has been mentioned in testimony previously, that of the various modal agencies that we have oversight responsibility for, much has been made of the fact that the FRA's recommendations—the percentage, over the years, was next to the bottom. And, of course, the organization that was at the bottom is the Coast Guard.

    Mr. CLEMENT. Chairman Hall, how many marine accidents would you investigate in a typical year?

    Mr. HALL. We have the resources, Congressman, to investigate approximately 10 to 15 marine accidents a year.

    Mr. CLEMENT. How would it impact your budget?

    Mr. HALL. This request would have no impact on our budget. It would merely clarify our status in regard to the investigations that we do undertake.

    Mr. CLEMENT. OK.

    Mr. Chairman, there was a serious accident in Sweetwater, Tennessee, involving a tanker car.

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    Maybe Chairman Duncan was going to ask this, but what is the status and update of that investigation?

    Mr. HALL. Well, we are looking very closely at that accident. As you know, there was a catastrophic failure of the tank car, and appropriate portions of that car are in our laboratories now, being examined. I anticipate that we may have some recommendations coming out of that investigation shortly.

    Mr. CLEMENT. My last question. About the F–14 that went down in Nashville, Tennessee, the U.S. Navy plane out of Miramar Naval Air Base, did you all investigate that?

    Mr. HALL. No. That's the military's responsibility. However, we do assist when requested by the military in any investigations, as we did—I guess the most prominent example of that is our assistance to NASA in the Challenger accident.

    Mr. CLEMENT. Well, isn't that an example also of Navy investigating the Navy?

    Mr. HALL. That would be up to Congress to decide on that, Congressman.


    Mr. HALL. Yes, sir.
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    Mr. CLEMENT. But you mentioned the Coast Guard a while ago, but the Navy is investigating their own accident, aren't they?

    Mr. HALL. Well, of course, the Navy has a military mission, where the Coast Guard's mission is—the Coast Guard is one of the modal agencies of the Department of Transportation, and its mission is not strictly military, although it does have a quasi-military mission in some of its functions.

    Mr. CLEMENT. All right. Thank you.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Clement.

    Chairman Hall, since Mr. Clement has mentioned the accident in Sweetwater, and Sweetwater, of course, is in my district, and of course I have been there hundreds of times, but I went to the scene of that accident later, and I do want to say that I appreciate your quick and personal response to that accident.

    Let me just ask a couple of questions.

    If I was in your position, I would be doing the same thing that you're doing, and I would be here asking for more money. But you know that we're asking all these departments and agencies throughout the Government to decrease their funding and downsize their employment, but you're asking for a 24 percent increase in funding and a 10 percent increase.

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    I know that in your earlier testimony you had your estimates that the number of aviation accidents is going to increase because of the great increase in the number of flights. But, you know, some people would say that if you're doing your job and finding out the causes for these accidents, that we should be having fewer accidents.

    So if we want to support this, what do you think our best justification is for these increases when we talk to other Members, in this kind of atmosphere?

    Mr. HALL. Well, first let me say, nothing would probably please all of us who work these accidents and see the tragic consequences than to see this agency sunsetted and its existence no longer required by the American people. And that is our mission and our objective every day.

    Over the 29-year history of the board we have made a number of recommendations to make transportation, safer in the United States of America than anyplace else in the world.

    Again, Congressman Duncan, I also endorse downsizing. I had worked in the government of the State of Tennessee at a time when we downsized State government in Tennessee, and I believe it has made it more responsive. However, one size does not fit all, and I do firmly believe that the responsibilities of this agency, with the growth in the transportation system and the need to maintain our technical excellence—such as in the modern airliners, and a lot of the highway transportation equipment in the future is going to require that our agency be able to keep up with the technology that we demonstrated here this morning in order to ensure the safety of the traveling public. Our request is in the interest of the public and therefore is something that the Congress, we hope, will support because it gives us the necessary resources to investigate what we project to be the current load of accidents that we'll be looking at during this authorization period.
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    It may be coincidental, but we have seen a tremendous growth in rail traffic recently, and I think to some degree that may be reflected in terms of some of the volume of current accidents. But projecting out this particular authorization period, we feel that these monies are necessary and required because as we downsize other areas of Government, we need to be sure that our oversight in the safety area is not downsized.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Let me ask you another question, a different type of question.

    Since over 90 percent of the transportation-related accidents in this country occur on the highways, do you think that—I am told that only 14 percent of your funding and staffing and so forth is devoted to highway issues. Do you think there's an imbalance there? Do you think you should be devoting more time and money and so forth to highway-type accidents?

    Mr. HALL. Yes. Some of the additional personnel that we're requesting in the later years of this authorization, I would hope that we could add to the number of investigators that we have in the highway area, and more emphasis can be placed in that particular area.

    Of course, in the aviation area, as I am sure the committee is familiar, we are the sole investigative agency, where NHTSA, Federal Highway, local State Police, local Sheriff's Police, all to some degree have some responsibilities on investigation of motor vehicle accidents.
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    Mr. DUNCAN. That is a key difference, there.

    Mr. HALL. But we do feel that we bring a very important—a lot of the safety initiatives that have occurred in the highway area have begun at the National Transportation Safety Board.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Let me just ask you very quickly, because we have to move on the time here, but you are requesting that air carriers be exempted from Freedom of Information Act requirements for information that they provide to you. What type of information, as specifically as you can, do you expect air carriers to provide that you think should be exempted?

    Mr. HALL. I would like our General Counsel, who is very familiar with that, to provide a response, if we could, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. CAMPBELL. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Good afternoon.

    Mr. CAMPBELL. The private sector is involved in the compilation of several different types of data bases right now. The one that is the furthest along is referred to as ''Flight Operations Quality Assurance,'' or FOQA. It is, as we note in our testimony, proprietary information that each carrier can develop, and is not presently provided to the Government, either the FAA or the NTSB, principally because of fears about the nature of disclosure that might take place.
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    What we are suggesting to Congress is not, per se, an exemption from the FOIA. There is already an exemption that provides coverage for this. We are looking for a minor amendment to the trade secrets provision in our act that would make it clear that we would not use that authority to release trade secret or confidential information. This is information that presently isn't within the Government, so it is not a diminution of public access to information. The information is not there now, so the public has no access to it. This is actually an amendment designed to increase the availability of information to the Government.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Let me ask you something else, Mr. Campbell. You have in one of your legislative proposals that currently, in an NTSB accident report, there are restrictions on introduction in a tort lawsuit, but it could be introduced in a lawsuit involving another accident.

    You want to put restrictions or limitations on that. Do you think that trial lawyers, for instance, would have a valid objection to that?

    Mr. CAMPBELL. Well, the approach that Congress has taken in the National Transportation Safety Board Act is that Safety Board accident investigation reports are not to be introduced, and this has been a clear signal and there is a clear line of tradition over the 29 years of our history on this.

    The amendment that we are proposing does not affect either side specifically, either the plaintiff's side or the defendant's side, so it is hard for me to say who might object to it. But what we are looking at here is simply a question of whether or not an accident report that deals with an accident in the past can be introduced into present litigation involving a different accident. The consequences of doing that are precisely the same to the agency and to the court system, as introducing the accident report involved in that particular piece of litigation, in that it will draw NTSB and NTSB resources into the litigation, and it would supplant the jury's opportunity to make its own judgments about cause and liability and blame.
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    The amendment really speaks to a very minor adjustment to a program that Congress has been, I think, quite correct in its wisdom to have put in the act initially.

    Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Well, I need to move on to other members.

    Chairman Hall, let me just ask you, would it be agreeable with you if we extend your term to 4 years, if we would extend our term to 4 years, too——


    Mr. HALL. I think that would be a good idea, Congressman.


    Mr. DUNCAN. All right.

    Mr. Wise.

    Mr. WISE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Chairman Hall, you mentioned one change you would like to see in your authorization is to guarantee you access to industry data bases. You mentioned two of the data bases as the Aviation Safety Reporting System from NASA, and the Flight Operations Quality Assurance data. Are there similar data bases in other forms of transportation?
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    Mr. HALL. I will ask Dr. Loeb here, who is familiar with of that.

    Go ahead.

    Mr. LOEB. Yes, sir, there are other data bases. However, the ASRS is different from other data bases because of the partial immunity that is provided to those aircrew members who report to the ASRS. And the FOQA data base that is envisioned would also involve some confidential information that would otherwise not be made available and not be available as some of the public data bases. So it is unique and different from that.

    Mr. WISE. I understand that, but in terms of other modes of transportation, are there other data bases that you would like to have access to? Or are you happy with the way things are?

    Mr. LOEB. I'm not aware of others that are comparable to this, that we would have the same access.

    Mr. WISE. What about in rail, for instance?

    Mr. LOEB. I'm not aware of any that we do not now have access to. Now, I don't know of any similar types of programs that have been set up in rail comparable to the FOQA program that is now being set up in the aviation industry.

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    Perhaps at some point, if something were like that were developed, we would have to take a look at that.

    Mr. WISE. If you would come back and let us know, I would appreciate it.

    Chairman Hall, one issue that apparently has arisen at times in NTSB's accident investigations is the control that you have over the accident site. In aviation accidents, you have authority based upon the Federal Aviation Act, giving you complete control over the removal of wreckage from the site, and ensuring a thorough onsite investigation.

    In surface transportation, on the other hand, your authority seems to be based on the 1974 Independent Safety Board Act, and is more limited. You are directed to conduct your investigation ''in a way that does not interfere unnecessarily with transportation services provided by the owner or operator of the vehicle, vessel, rolling stock, track, or pipeline component.'' My question is, does this more limited authority that you have over surface transportation accident scenes sometimes limit the thoroughness of the onsite investigation that you can conduct? Or do negotiations over control of the accident scene sometimes distract your investigators from the primary responsibility, which is investigation?

    Mr. HALL. Congressman, if I could, before I respond to that, I apologize for diverting my attention from you, but we have had a tank car explosion in Albany, New York. A car was being humped—that's a term in the train industry—and there have been no deaths, no fatalities, but the car has exploded, and we have just authorized sending the same individuals that did our Sweetwater, Tennessee accident, the hazardous materials team, up for that particular accident on the ConRail Line.
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    I would like to ask Mr. Arena, who is Director of our Office of Surface Transportation, to respond to that, Congressman. But in the Chairman's opinion, the limit does affect the quality of our investigations.

    Mr. WISE. I'd be glad to hear from Mr. Arena, Chairman Hall, but my experience has been that the Chairman's opinion usually rules.


    Mr. HALL. Right. Well, I just was hoping that he could elaborate on it, because he has the investigators on the scene. But my experience is that particularly in the rail area, there have been times when we have gone there that the event recorders have already been removed, or in some cases inadvertently tampered with. In situations where there is a hurry-up situation in terms of getting the cars and the equipment moved and back in service, we try to work very closely with the industry to be sure that doesn't happen, but I think it has an impact.

    Mr. WISE. If I could ask, Mr. Chairman, since my time is limited and I had one quick question that I need an answer to, would it be possible to have Mr. Arena perhaps give us some written——

    Mr. HALL. Could we submit an answer on that, sir? That's an important issue, I believe.

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    Mr. WISE. If I could just follow up on rail, for just a second?

    Mr. DUNCAN. Go ahead.

    Mr. WISE. You had mentioned the two-way end-of-train devices as being on the top of your railroad safety ''most wanted'' list. Could you quickly list some of the other priorities that might be there?

    Mr. HALL. Well, positive train separation; the tank car safety standards; the passenger car safety standards. And the grade crossing standards. In the rail area, the list just goes on and on and on.

    Mr. WISE. OK. Thank you very much.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Wise.

    Mr. Weller.

    Mr. WELLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Good afternoon, Mr. Hall. Like my good friend, Bill Lipinski, I represent the Chicago area, and that includes the world's busiest airport. This year, because of a number of breakdowns of 30-year-old computer equipment, the public living in the area, of course, became very concerned. In this committee we have been moving forward with FAA reform legislation to hopefully expedite fixing those particular problems.
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    But I kind of wanted to get a feel from you personally. How do you feel your relationship is with the FAA? Do you feel you have a good relationship? Is it cooperative?

    Mr. HALL. Well, Congressman, I kind of got thrown in the fire. I became Acting Chairman of this agency in June 1994, and in the last 6 months of that year we probably had more aviation accidents than we had had in the previous 10 years, and it followed a period of time, 20 months, in which there had been no major accidents.

    So Administrator Hinson, Deputy Administrator Linda Daschle, and the other folks out at the FAA got thrown together at accident sites, and I got to know them very, very well in a very short period of time. Our working relationship with the FAA—and I have a great deal of respect for this Administrator and his operation over there—but they're dealing with a lot of areas—particularly in the procurement, that they needed some relief. I am personally pleased to see that happening.

    Mr. WELLER. Do you feel they're pretty responsive with recommendations that your agency makes?

    Mr. HALL. Yes, sir. They have been very responsive to us. There are always areas that we disagree on, the area of flight data recorders being one that I would like to have seen movement more quickly, but generally they have been very responsive, and their record reflects that.

    Mr. WELLER. The NTSB just completed a report on the FAA's handling of en route center computer outages. I was wondering if you could briefly share with us your conclusions that were included in that report, and do you believe the FAA is moving to respond to the conclusions?
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    Mr. HALL. Well, I would be glad to give my response. Dr. Loeb was in charge of that, and I would be glad to defer to him, Congressman, let him just kind of summarize it for you.

    Mr. WELLER. Absolutely.

    Mr. LOEB. Congressman Weller, the conclusions that we reached were that, above all, the system is safe and is operating safely now, despite some problems that we noted, one of which has to do with the ancient IBM equipment that is in the five major en route centers. We believe that the FAA's program to replace those five computers, beginning in October 1997, is a good move. It needs to be done. Those replacement machines will be in place for probably 18 months to 24 months at the most before the more improved package, the DSR, goes into place about a year to a year and a half later.

    We did find that there were some additional problems that needed to be corrected, for example communications problems, training issues, and we have made some specific recommendations to the FAA to correct those problems. But basically we concluded that although there are problems, the problems generally result in an inefficiency in the operating system, decreased traffic flow—some concern about safety, but really, the system is safe.

    Mr. HALL. Congressman, I might add, however, that once we started looking into this area, that I think several things were identified that have been improved as a result, specifically the training of the controllers in what is called the ''DARC mode,'' which was really not being done and was pointed out early in our investigation.
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    Also, the seriousness of the situation of power outages and how these facilities get their core power supply, which surprised me. There are some basic things that we already know from the nuclear industry that had not been incorporated in terms of providing a safe—I don't know all the technical terms, but a constant source of power to these facilities. So there are improvements that can be made for public safety because the one thing that scares these controllers more than the 30-year-old computers is a total power outage.

    Mr. WELLER. As part of the response to addressing problems at Aurora, for example, the controllers have suggested that we increase the number of controllers staffing the facility. The FAA has made a commitment to add another 50, and they have had difficulty in accomplishing that goal.

    From your perspective, in reviewing the situation, do you believe that we do need additional air traffic controllers to handle the existing equipment until the new computer equipment is installed?

    Mr. LOEB. I think that the issue of staffing is a localized issue. At some facilities there is a need for increased staffing; at other facilities, there isn't. And I think the FAA has some problems, unfortunately, in increasing staffing at those locations where there is a staffing problem.

    I believe the FAA is attempting to do what it can right now. We have made a recommendation or two even in that area. The staffing is not only controllers, but more importantly, it is facility technicians. That's probably a bigger problem, the lack of adequate facilities technicians. They're addressing that, but we have made a recommendation or two in that area.
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    Mr. WELLER. What was your recommendation? To increase the number of both controllers and technicians at those five facilities, including Aurora?

    Mr. LOEB. Basically, it was to try to look at some innovative techniques for retaining these people, for improving their lot there, so that they would be more desireable places to work, and so forth.

    Mr. WELLER. Well, a number of us are strong supporters of incentive pay at the most demanding facilities; of course, Aurora is one of those, as are the other four. We feel that would be one good way of attracting the most experienced controllers to the busiest centers.

    Thank you.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Congressman Weller.

    Mr. Kim.

    Mr. KIM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do have a couple questions.

    I have a little concern about the time between the accident happening, and finally the investigation being available to the public. According to reports, aviation takes about 9 months; the railroad takes 13 months; and the highway takes 15 months. I would like to talk about the railroad situation.
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    Thirteen months seems to be way too long. Let me give you an example. We had an accident in Cajon Pass in 1994. It was a simple accident. It was a downslope, and the train lost control. The brake failed, and finally the crew member and the engineer jumped out of the train, and the train ran into an other train. It took exactly 15 months to get the report out. Ironically, the day after the report became available, we had another accident, the same location, the exact same type of accident. The crew jumped out of the train. This time it was fatal; both got killed. It derailed, and you had toxic chemicals all over, burning—I mean, it was a total disaster.

    Now, I can understand, when you're talking about an environmental impact study, which requires public hearings. It will take 12 months. In your case, you don't need any public hearings. Why would you take 15 months? Now, we're dealing with the public safety. Every day something could happen.

    Now, by the time the report is available to us, maybe it becomes obsolete. Who knows? If the report were available earlier, and somebody followed the recommendation or the procedure that you recommended, we could avoid the second accident.

    I would like to ask you, what can you do, or we do, to accelerate this thing to 6 months or 7 months? Don't you think that 13 months for a railroad accident report is too long?

    Mr. HALL. Congressman, the goal of our agency is to report an accident investigation, to bring a report to the board in a 6-month period of time. I believe I would agree with you that 13 months is too long.
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    Now, if I could, let me just briefly explain to you why we have been in a situation where those types of delays are sometimes encountered. But before I respond on that, let me be sure, Congressman, that you understand that if at any time during an investigation we feel that there is a recommendation that can be made that can positively impact public safety that urgently needs to be considered, we would put out an urgent recommendation, and we routinely do that during our investigations.

    In the rail area, because of the downsizing of the National Transportation Safety Board that took place in the 1980's, we do not have an adequate number of railroad investigators to even meet the mandate that Congress has given us in terms of investigating accidents. And when we get in a situation in which we have too many accidents within a too-short period of time, as we are experiencing right now, it's just a matter of staff and resources in terms of being sure that a thorough investigation is done. For example, in the current Cajon Pass investigations, there are a number of allegations that you are familiar with and have mentioned this morning in regard to the angle-cock, in regard to possible sabotaging or tampering with the train, etc. All of those things, we have to investigate in great detail. The human performance issue, in terms of looking at the records of the operators—all of these things, for us to put our name on an investigation, we have to be sure that we have dotted all the I's, crossed all the T's, done the best job we can. And sometimes that takes time.

    Our goal is 6 months; 13 months is too long. The main reason we can't get them out of the door in 6 months in the rail area is the lack of staff and resources.

    Mr. KIM. I appreciate your comprehensive explanation, but remember, I was out there when you had the meeting, and that was a closed-door meeting. It seems to me that during that meeting, we had a room that was full of people who were investigating. You were not the only one investigating. There was an investigator representing the unions. The FBI was there. The District Attorney was there. NLRB had half a dozen people out there. I mean, you've got all kinds of investigators out there. You're not the only one.
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    I can understand that if you're the only one who does it, it may take some time, but this is a joint operation, it seems to me, with a lot of cooperative spirit. So why does it take such a long time? That's still puzzling me.

    Now, let me ask you: 26 percent more money—if I see you run a railroad investigation, you want to cut back to 6 months, and therefore you need more money; I can understand that. But just asking for more money, I have trouble with that. Looking at this request, you are asking to increase staff members by 10 percent, and then the total budget by 26 percent. Now, this is unheard of nowadays. We are trying to cut back, just like our Chairman mentioned, trying to balance the budget; our national debt is just totally unacceptable. But asking for more money? I would like to see what it is for. Well, ''we try to cut down the investigation time, cut it in half,'' then I can understand it, ''therefore, we need an additional 50 people.'' But maintaining the status quo while asking for more money, more staff, I just have a little trouble there.

    Mr. HALL. Congressman, a couple of comments on that, sir. This agency had, in 1978, a total of 384 FTEs, and we are now at 350 after we were downsized approximately 308 people. We do not currently have enough investigators to perform our core mission in either the railroad or the marine area. The majority of dollars that we're talking about in terms of our increases go specifically to additional investigators to perform these investigative functions. The dollar request, that we have come to you with is the number of individuals that we think are required in the out-years to perform the mission that we have been given by Congress. Right now, Congressman, we have a total of 20 investigators that are responsible right now for some 18 separate rail accidents in the United States. We could not do that volume of work without the assistance of the party process that you mentioned, the people from FRA, the people from the other organizations, assisting us in doing that particular work.
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    But the additional dollars, we feel, are cost-effective for you, the taxpayers of this country because, as you know, the recent rail accidents—in your State alone, I believe, the costs associated with the Cajon Pass accident are something like $30 million. We feel that our work, in being out and trying to be proactive on accident and incident investigations, prevents accidents from happening. And for accidents that do not happen and lives that are not lost, it's hard to put a dollar figure on them, but we feel that the mission that we have saves the taxpayers' dollars. And by us not being there to perform the mission, there would be a greater cost to Government because usually it's the Government that ends up having to clean up after these accidents and pay a lot of the costs.

    Mr. KIM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. DUNCAN. I believe Mr. Clement has another question.

    Mr. CLEMENT. Yes.

    Chairman Hall, the last 2 days we've heard a lot of testimony concerning the railroads and railroad safety, about defective cars and unqualified personnel, environmental problems, rulemaking procedures, signals, grade crossing, systemic problems, as I mentioned earlier, things unravelling; blatant disregard. But what you're saying today is that you really don't have the authority that you have with aviation accidents, when it comes to doing a complete and thorough investigation and finding out what is the probable cause.

    Mr. HALL. Well, we do not have control of the site that we have in the aviation area, as Congressman Wise pointed out, we really do not have the required technology in terms of the event recorders that we have by contrast in the aviation area.
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    So there are clearly differences in terms of our ability to investigate a rail accident versus an aviation accident.

    Mr. CLEMENT. Now, you mentioned earlier in your statements about a meeting with Norfolk Southern, that you wish Norfolk Southern had as much concern for the general public as they do their employees when it comes to safety. Would you expand on that comment?

    Mr. HALL. Well, I was invited by Norfolk Southern. One of the roles that I as Chairman, and the other board members, have is that we feel that we are advocates, that you have anointed us as advocates for transportation safety, and if there are opportunities to speak to industry, unions, or other organizations to promote safety and put our safety message out there, we are eager to do that. And I was invited by Norfolk Southern to go down and honor their employees at their annual awards banquet at Virginia Beach. They have won the Harriman Award, I think, some six times in terms of the dramatic improvement they have made in their occupational safety for their employees, and it's a record to be envied.

    They have also done a good job in terms of safety on their line, but I had encouraged them just as a goal, that they would try to win the Harriman Award in terms of their work in the public aspects of their transportation safety, just as they have in their employee safety efforts.

    Mr. CLEMENT. What was the reason for this? Was there a lack of response on behalf of Norfolk Southern to generate publicity?
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    Mr. HALL. No, no, not at all. It was just in my remarks, for them to look at things like positive train separation, take the leadership in grade crossing issues in the States where their lines are, to take the leadership in terms of some of the safety recommendations that we have made.

    There has been a lot of talk, as there is right now in Washington, as you know, Congressman, about the appropriate Government role and Government rules and regulations. In the safety area, the Safety Board encourages industry to act independently on their own on our safety recommendations, which are public information. We had an accident earlier this year that we investigated down in North Carolina where there was a load that shifted on an intermodal car; part of that load then penetrated an engine, an Amtrak engine that was passing, killed an engineer who had assisted us down at Mobile, Alabama on that accident investigation. We found that there were no Government rules and regulations in terms of the loading and securement of intermodal shipments. We encouraged the railroads themselves, the Class I railroads, to take appropriate action and set standards. We have received a response now from almost all the Class I railroads, and they are taking affirmative action on their own to address what we thought was an important safety recommendation.

    So I think the attitude and the mood in the rail industry in regard to safety is improving and is changing dramatically, but at the same time there are some areas, in working with industry, that they feel that they cannot move on because they would be at a disadvantage and not have a level playing field economically. Those are areas where we have been pushing for rules and regulations with the FRA. And hours of service, which as you know is presently a Congressional responsibility. But in those areas there is a desire from the industry for Government rules and regulations so that everyone is operating on a level playing field.
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    Mr. CLEMENT. And the fact is that those rules and regulations are recommendations that you have made to the FRA that have not been implemented yet?

    Mr. HALL. That's correct.

    Mr. CLEMENT. All right.

    Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much, Mr. Clement.

    I believe Chairman Coble is next.

    Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    It has been noted that the deck is stacked in favor of Tennessee, Mr. Chairman: the Chairman of the NTSB, the distinguished gentleman from Nashville, our distinguished Chairman from Knoxville. Do you all award credit if a fellow admits to having cheered for the Volunteers four or five times in his life?


    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, we'll give you credit for that.

    Mr. COBLE. I feel better already.

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    Mr. DUNCAN. Chairman Coble, I'll tell you, whenever I hear about somebody going to some small school in the northeast, like Harvard or Princeton or someplace, I tell them I'm sorry they couldn't have gotten into the University of Tennessee.


    Mr. CLEMENT. I won't argue with that.

    And, Chairman Coble, anyone who loves Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl has to be a great man.


    Mr. COBLE. Thank you. I feel better already.

    Gentlemen and ladies, you all do a good job. That's the good news. I am going to reiterate what the Chairman said, that you all are asking for an increase of 23 or 24 percent. It may well be in order, but, folks—and I repeat, you all do a good job; I'm familiar with what you do. But if there is a Federal agency or Federal entity on this Hill that could not survive a significant budgetary and/or appropriations cut, if there is such an animal, Mr. Chairman, I will buy you and Mr. Clement the biggest steak in town and the three or four drinks it takes to digest it.

    My point is, every Federal agency in this town known to me is consistently a beneficiary of adequate monies. I think there's not an agency up here, folks, that—I want to meet a Federal agency and its members who sometime spend the money appropriated to them by the Congress the same way they spend their own money. I'm not dressing you all down; I'm just saying that we live in a town that for so long, ''Oh, sure, let's go back, we need $5 million more next year.'' They'll kick it up to $5 million, and then if you only get $2.5 million more in this town, that's a $2.5 million cut. And private sector folks don't live that way.
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    So, Mr. Chairman, I want us to look very carefully at this increased appropriation.

    I heard this mentioned earlier, and I want to weigh in on this, too, regarding the possible legislative changes—if they are in fact changes—that would alter or diminish the Coast Guard's role in marine casualties. Now, Mr. Chairman, I don't know where we are or what the status of that is, and Mr. Clement, the ranking member of the Coast Guard Subcommittee, along with me—folks, if we start tampering with the Coast Guard's role as the No. 1 investigative agency in response to marine casualties, I think we are indeed flirting with danger and we are skating upon thin ice. The Coast Guard has the unique wherewithal, response time, the ability to preserve evidence, the ability to identify witnesses. So if we're going to pursue that course on legislative changes, I want to weigh in on it, and I would be happy to hear from you all, Mr. Chairman, you or your colleagues, about those changes.

    Mr. HALL. Well, Congressman, if I could just make as brief a comment as I can. Certainly I am sometimes not as succinct as I want to be, but I hope I can be on this——

    Mr. COBLE. You're talking to a Roy Acuff fan, so go easy.

    Mr. HALL. I hope, as Chairman of this agency—and I would hope that any chairman of a Federal agency is attempting to do everything every day to spend every dollar like it was their own. We try very hard at the National Transportation Safety Board to be sure that the money that we expend is in furtherance of the mission and the responsibilities that you have given our agency to do.
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    I make that commitment to you in all sincerity because I had previously mentioned that I had served as Executive Assistant in the Governor's office in Tennessee at a time when we downsized the State government by 6,000 employees for a gentleman by the name of Ned McWhorter, who was about as responsible a public official as there is. And he ingrained in me and all of us that work with him—General Jordan—our responsibility for accountability of public dollars.

    So I do feel, from my experience in State government and my experience in working with this agency, that sometimes when you cut budgets and try to downsize Government, that one size doesn't fit all. And I do feel that the unique role of this agency and its responsibility, that by keeping it funded and properly manned, you save tax dollars.

    Mr. COBLE. Mr. Chairman, when the red light illuminates, the Chairman gets uneasy, so I want to move along quickly——

    Mr. HALL. Now, let me—let me just say, on the Coast Guard, that we are not attempting in any way to alter or diminish the Coast Guard's responsibility in the marine accident investigation area, other than the fact that when the NTSB and Coast Guard both investigate the same accident, it seems to me that there is a waste of tax dollars in terms of both of us performing the same function.

    Now, that may mean that Congress feels that the Safety Board should not be performing an independent investigation in marine matters and providing the same oversight to the Coast Guard that we do to the FAA and the Federal Railroad Administration. But to have the present situation does not serve the taxpayer well.
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    Mr. COBLE. Well, I just wanted to weigh in on that so that the Chairman would know from where I come.

    I am sure, Mr. Chairman, that this will be discussed in more detail as we move along. I thank the Chairman.

    Thank you, gentlemen.

    Mr. DUNCAN. Right. We will discuss it more in the markup later on, when we get to that.

    We have now been joined by the ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Oberstar.

    Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just very, very briefly. I don't have any questions of this panel.

    I do want to reaffirm once again my often-expressed and long-held view that the National Transportation Safety Board is one of only a handful of Federal agencies from which we get 110 percent for every dollar that we invest. We should not skimp and scrimp on safety. This agency has done marvels with a very reduced, very tightly drawn and lean workforce. If anything, I think NTSB is understaffed, but they have made the staffing work and work effectively, work brilliantly, even, in the interest of safety. And if anything, I would give them an advertising budget to let the American public know what they're doing, but that's not their job. That story gets out through the coverage of the methodical, meticulous, painstaking, unadorned investigative work that the NTSB does at accident sites across this country, and the post-accident reviews and recommendations and follow-up on the agency that this board does, to make sure that they're carrying out the recommendations that have been made in an objective and totally dispassionate manner. That is the NTSB's role; that is the spirit in which this agency has been led under Democratic and Republican Administrations alike. And, Chairman Hall, you are carrying on in a grand tradition.
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    The modest request made for an increase in funding is far below what is needed, but it is certainly in keeping with the sparse times in which we are operating. I will vigorously resist any attempt to further reduce the NTSB budget, or to cut below the authorization level that you have requested. I think it is entirely reasonable and responsible, and I feel better—and I think millions of Americans travel safer. There are fewer ''white knuckle'' flights because of what the NTSB has contributed to the advancement of safety during its lifetime.

    I salute you and congratulate you for what you do.

    Mrs. KELLY [assuming Chair]. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.

    [Mr. Oberstar's prepared statement follows:]

    [Insert here.]

    Mr. HALL. Thank you, Congressman.

    Mrs. KELLY. Excuse me, go ahead, Mr. Hall.

    Mr. HALL. No, I was just saying thank you.

    Mrs. KELLY. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.

    Mr. Ehlers.
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    Mr. EHLERS. Thank you, Madam Chair.

    Just a comment, which you can respond to if you wish. It seems to me that in view of the tightness of funds that Mr. Coble was referring to, that another option is to reduce some of your responsibilities. I am somewhat surprised to see that you are statutorily required to make a causal determination in all aviation accidents that you investigate, all fatal aviation accidents, even though you sometimes ask the FAA to deal with the non-fatal ones.

    It seems to me that may be a remnant of an era when air transportation and airplanes were regarded as intrinsically less safe than automobiles. That, of course, is no longer true. I find it strange that we would statutorily require you to investigate every aviation accident. We don't require you to investigate every automobile accident or every train accident, etc. It seems to me we could reduce your workload considerably by not requiring that you look at every aviation accident. The States could take some responsibility in that area, as they do with automobiles; in fact, with automobiles, the local police are generally the ones doing the investigating. There could be some central repository to accept the data that they accumulate, so you could still detect patterns if there is some fault in aircraft performance.

    But it seems to me that's an unnecessary burden for you in this day and age when airplanes are so safe, compared to other modes of transportation. I would appreciate your reaction.

    We do have to go vote, so——

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    Mr. HALL. Just very briefly, Congressman, you are correct. A substantial commitment of the resources of our agency goes to do what we call ''general aviation accidents.'' I would point out that I think the main reason Congress has us perform that responsibility is that there are Federal, not State, regulations over that particular area.

    Mr. EHLERS. I understand that, but I think that's something we can explore, and I would like the staff to note that and list that as one area we might explore as we go through the reauthorization.

    Thank you.

    Mrs. KELLY. Thank you very much.

    Mr. Hall, for my own questions, I would like to reserve the right to submit them to you in writing.

    If there are no other questions, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you for your testimony. On behalf of Chairman Duncan, I conclude this hearing. Thank you.

    Mr. HALL. Thank you.

    [Mr. Costello's prepared statement follows:]

    [Insert here.]

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    [Whereupon, at 3 p.m., the subcommittees were adjourned, to reconvene at the call of their respective Chairs.]

    [Insert here.]