Recently reconfirmed as Vice Chairman of the NTSB, Christopher A. Hart brings passion for aviation safety, extraordinary insights based on his experiences as a pilot, an aeronautical engineer (bachelors and masters degrees from Princeton), father of a daughter who designs aircraft (proving that the aviation affliction can be transmitted by genes) and a son, a partner of a law firm (Harvard law graduate), a representative of the airlines (ATA),a former DoT staff person, the Deputy Administrator of NHTSA, an alumnus of the FAA (15 years including the creation of one of the agency’s first data collecting systems) and a college rower. Chris has led several high profile accident investigations, including the San Bernardino gas pipeline explosion, the 2009 Washington Metro crash and the 2011 Connecticut casino bus crash. Chris inherited the love of aviation from his great uncle [see below].Member Hart has spoken 89 times over the past five years on an incredibly diverse set of subjects before Congress, at academic institutions, to unions, community groups, schools, legal organizations, medical bodies, non-transportation safety institutions and other organizations. His undergraduate institution forces their engineering students to write a thesis; obviously that practical education has helped him to be an exceptional speaker. Chris is noted for his incisive, thoughtful contributions to the NTSB proceedings.
Q: Are you a pilot?
Q: What is the coolest airplane you have ever flown in?
A: I am a pilot, and the most amazing airplane I have ever piloted is the F-18 Hornet . . . so now I am a member of the Supersonic Club. I may be the only one on my block who enjoys that honor.
Q: Over the course of your career you have participated in a number of aviation safety projects. What do you consider to be the one project with the greatest safety impact?
A: The aviation safety project I have been involved in that has had the greatest safety impact is the Global Aviation Information Network (GAIN). We created GAIN to develop tools and processes to enable and facilitate the collection, analysis, and sharing of aviation safety information to improve safety. Getting the concept started in the mid 1990’s was pushing a big rock up a big hill, but today GAIN-type tools and process are in widespread use around the world, under various names, and their positive impact on aviation safety has been astounding.
Q: What phrase or words of wisdom and the author do you cite most frequently in your aviation work?
A: The words of wisdom I cite most frequently are from a report entitled To Err is Human, published in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine, Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, about the need to improve healthcare safety. In estimating that 44,000 to 98,000 people die each year in U.S. hospitals from medical mistakes – almost 1,000 to 2,000 every week – the report states:
The focus must shift from blaming individuals for past errors to a focus on preventing future errors by designing safety into the system.
Q: Who is your favorite person in aviation history?
A: My favorite person in aviation history is my great uncle, James Herman Banning, who is the first African American to receive a pilot’s license issued by the U.S. government. He received his license in 1926, which was the year the U.S. government began licensing pilots. The government began licensing pilots because of the increasing number of deaths that were being caused by barnstorming by returning World War I pilots.
Q: What are you reading these days for fun?
A: My recent fun reading includes, in no particular order, The Oath, by Jeffrey Tobin; Bailout, by Neil Barofsky; Language Intelligence, by Joseph J. Romm; Reclaiming the Sky, by Tom Murphy; Life of Pi, by Yann Martel; No Easy Day, by Mark Owen; The Black History of the White House, by Clarence Lusane; and Exit Row, by Tammy King.
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