Tracking the NTSB Most Wanted List

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2019-2020 Most Wanted List

NTSB Annual Event


Tracking annual MWLs

Aviation safety is not a still photograph. Both the operational circumstances and the vigilance in pursuit of minimizing risk makes the appropriate simile a “moving picture.” The NTSB’s annual Most Wanted List is a static view of the six modes of transportation (aviation, highway, marine, multimodal, pipeline and rail) based on the experiences of the past. As the Board’s website explains:

“The MOST WANTED LIST, the NTSB’s premier advocacy tool, identifies the top safety improvements that can be made across all modes to prevent accidents, minimize injuries, and save lives in the future. These issue areas are ripe for action now; if addressed, they would make a significant impact.”

Curiously, there is no explanation of why priorities from previous MWLs lists have moved off of this safety advocacy tool. It would also be instructive for the NTSB to give some added rational why there are repeaters.

For example, here is a chart tracing MWLs for 2014-2016:


While qualitative commentary year-to-year is useful, a more quantitative presentation would be more instructive to the organizations, professionals and regulators which work in the sector at issue. For example, much of aviation is disciplined by SMS and is driven by those numbers. The macro data which supports the MWL would be useful to the NTSB’s audiences.

For example, General Aviation Safety has been on the list since 2012 (or 2011). GREAT NEWS: GA did not make this year’s MWL. Reminded by Member Homendy’s remarks during the MWL press conference, the removal from the list does not mean that all is well.

Here is a brief history of MWLs past (not complete):

NTSB’S Most Wanted List Identifies Top Ten Transportation Challenges For 2013

NTSB Releases Top 10 Most Wanted List of Transportation Improvements for 2014

Observations on the NTSB Most Wanted Lists: 2016, 2015 & 2014

2016 NTSB Most Wanted List—Aviation sections

[note: some of the MWL lists are denoted by the year of issuance and others have a prospective title.]

Perhaps one of the more useful MWL action was the 2018 progress Report

As noted before, the 2018-2019 MWL does not include GA for the 1st time in 8 years.


Of the 10 emphases included in this most recent declaration, seven are repeats of the previousyear, one was modified, two were eliminated and two were added:





The commentary on the seven repeats what basically the Board said in  past criticisms; in fact, many of the associated FAA action items are now almost all acceptable and fewer in number.


The MWL includes a new item which is solely confined to Part 135, air tour, air medical service, air taxi, charter, and on-demand flight safety concerns:

The Board sums up what must be done is quoted here:

What can be done?

We know that SMS, FDM, and CFIT programs can improve safety and prevent crashes. We currently have 21 open safety recommendations addressing the safety gap in Part 135 operations. Operators must be proactive about safety; they should not wait for regulations or an accident to move them to action. Some operators have already incorporated SMS, FDM, and CFIT programs and are seeing tremendous safety returns.

Again, the qualitative nature of this critique makes it difficult to respond. The Part 135 industry has embraced the adoption of SMS, equipment of FDM and training for CFIT; in fact the Air Charter Safety Foundation was established to champion and has flourished under this mission (membership list).





The air medical services segment is also aggressively pursuing risk reduction among the operators of this specialized operations.

Viewing the MWL as a whole, aviation and the FAA are recognized implicitly as improving. That unspoken accolade should not diminish the vigor with which this industry pursues





continuously, everywhere, everyone






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