ROBERT TALCOTT FRANCIS II, former NTSB VICE CHAIRMAN, PASSES-aviation has lost a highly effective communicator.

BOB fRANCIS INTERVIEW
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Key NTSB spokesman in ValuJet and TWA 800 crashes

Long career with FAA

Appointed Vice Chairman of the Board

Many leadership roles in AVIATION SAFETY

Aviation has need of individuals skilled at communications- people who speak to all 
audiences. Our métier has great appeal among the general public, but the 
technicalities of what we do are complex, requiring a strong grasp of the engineering 
and physics which lift large objects into the air.

Bob Francis held that important skill based on his education, his holding commercial pilot certificate with instrument and twin-engine ratings and a lifetime of high profile learning experiences.

What  aviation is losing a person who was understood and was believed by the general public—a perfect example was Bob’s TWA 800 briefings of the press and of the Families.

TWA 800 pictures, press conference and with President Clinton

His ability to speak with authority was also respected by the highest levels of government and industry; they also found their personal explanations to be concise, filled with important facts, made the incomprehensible understood and was comprehensive in his scope.

FAA and NTSB seals

 

 

 

 


Bob’s passing was noted by leading aviation voices. A colleague, with whom Bob worked, added a touching tribute.

[Ms. Trinder is a highly respected member of the aviation bar who worked with Bob in a law firm in which he was a senior advisor. Thanks, Rachel for your well composed recollections.]

Bob Francis official photo

From Rachel Trinder, who worked with him during his years in the private sector:

 

Bob’s all too early death is an extremely sad loss, and for a great many people.  He contributed so much to the aviation and other communities in his varied and distinguished career.  His deep and genuine concern for aviation safety was a cornerstone of his life, including throughout his many years with the FAA; when he steered the challenging investigations of the TWA 800 and ValuJet 592 accidents while Vice Chairman of the NTSB; and as a talented adviser during his later years as a private consultant.

It was a great privilege to work with Bob.  A true internationalist with a deep appreciation for the knowledge and wisdom of others, he brought such depth and breadth of knowledge to every situation, and added to that his calm, well-reasoned and thoughtful analysis, enlivened with humor.  He enjoyed the political support that enabled him to occupy senior government positions, but was always aware of the importance of balance between the public and private aspects of his life.

Despite his many accomplishments and contributions, he never developed an arrogance about himself, his position, or his expertise, but was always most interested in, and focused on, substance.  He represented the best of public service, always having the nation’s best interests at the center of his government work.  An active GA pilot who also held commercial ratings, he brought a laser-like focus to the details, but never lost sight of the big picture.  He knew how to be tough when needed, but also could bring compassion and gentleness to any situation.  He was a tremendous friend to many people, and deeply appreciated diversity in all aspects of life.

In addition to Bob’s many professional talents, what I’ll remember, appreciate, and miss the most are his truly lovely personality, his warmth and sparkle, his joyful laugh, and his ability to weave fun into everything.  He leaves a big void, but also, among other things, a lifetime of contributions to aviation safety from which we all benefit, and a wealth of fond memories.


 Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), Washington Branch

RAeS logo

Dear Members and colleagues,

Many of you will have heard that Robert Francis passed away on April 17th.  He was 83.  Bob was an original founder of the Washington DC Branch and Chairman after Sir Stuart Matthews.  He continued to participate for several years after his term expired and was a witty and vocal member of the Board.

In his professional life Robert T. (Bob) Francis was a former vice chair of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and long-time member of Flight Safety Foundation’s Board of Governors. 

Bob Francis and John Goglia

Francis was appointed to the NTSB by President Bill Clinton in January 1995 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August of that year[1]. He played key roles in the NTSB investigations of ValuJet Flight 592, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 that crashed in the Florida Everglades in May 1996, and TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747-100 that broke up in flight after an explosion in the aircraft’s center wing fuel tank. The TWA 800 accident occurred off the coast of New York in July 1996.

Prior to joining NTSB, Francis held a number of senior positions at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including senior representative in Western Europe and North Africa. He worked extensively with international regulators on global aviation safety and security issues.

While at FAA, he worked on the U.S. team that investigated the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

His professional achievements are extraordinary, but those of us who worked closely with Bob over the decades will remember him in other ways.   International aviation was not just his job, it was his passion.   He loved the way aviation brought the people of the world closer together and he had a genuine affection for his colleagues who worked in this amazing industry.   Bob had friends in every corner of the earth and now all of those friends share the sadness of his passing and recall the joy of his fellowship.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family.  We will recognize Bob at the next Branch event, hopefully in the near future.

Kind regards,

William Voss, Chair & Quentin Whiteree, Vice Chair

voss and witherlee

 


NBAA Marks Passing of Former NTSB Vice Chair Robert Francis

Contact: Dan Hubbard, 202-783-9360, dhubbard@nbaa.orgNBAA logo

Washington, DC, April 28, 2021 – National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen today marked the recent passing of Robert T. (Bob) Francis, former vice chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Francis died April 17 at the age of 83.

“Throughout his distinguished career, Bob Francis remained committed to improving the safety of our nation’s aviation industry, and his work drove several laudable changes toward that goal,” Bolen said. “We join with his family and his many friends in mourning his loss.”

Appointed to the NTSB in 1995, Francis played integral roles in the investigations of the May 1996 downing of ValuJet Flight 592, and the July 1996 loss of TWA Flight 800. He served on the board until 1999.

Prior to joining the NTSB, Francis held several positions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including as the agency’s senior representative in Western Europe and North Africa. He was part of the U.S. team that aided the investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

ValuJet and TWA

Francis later served on the Board of Governors at Flight Safety Foundation for 10 years before retiring in 2015. He was also among the founders of the Washington, DC branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society.


FSF

Former NTSB Vice Chair Robert T. Francis Dies

Francis also was a member of the Foundation’s Board of Governors and its Icarus Committee.

by FSF Editorial Staff | April 23, 2021

Robert T. (Bob) Francis, a former vice chair of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and long-time member of Flight Safety Foundation’s Board of Governors, died April 17. He was 83.

Bob Francis FSF portrait

Francis was appointed to the NTSB by President Bill Clinton in January 1995 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August of that year. He played key roles in the NTSB investigations of ValuJet Flight 592, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 that crashed in the Florida Everglades in May 1996, and TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747-100 that broke up in flight after an explosion in the aircraft’s center wing fuel tank. The TWA 800 accident occurred off the coast of New York in July 1996.

He served on the NTSB until 1999.

Francis joined the Foundation Board in 2005 and served until early 2015. He also had been a member of the Foundation’s Icarus Committee.

Prior to joining NTSB, Francis held a number of senior positions at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including senior representative in Western Europe and North Africa. He worked extensively with international regulators on global aviation safety and security issues.

While at FAA, he worked on the U.S. team that investigated the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Lockerbie PA 103

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Thursday that he first met Francis at an Icarus Committee meeting in 1992. “Bob was a true friend of mine and aviation safety,” he said. “He was totally devoted to aviation safety and was always the consummate gentlemen.”

 

 

 

[1] On the same day, his friend and cohort, John Goglia, received “advice and consent” of the Senate.

Francis at Payne Stewart's plane crash site



 

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