June 24, 2022

Bipartisan Letter Urges Secretary Buttigieg to Protect NTSB Independence Amid Growing Commercial Space Industry

Washington, D.C. — Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Buttigieg urging him to protect the independence of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding oversight of commercial space accidents.

“Recently, representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have claimed that FAA has exclusive authority over all commercial space accident investigations and that, as such, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will only be included in such investigations at FAA’s invitation,” the members said. “As the leaders of the Committee that oversees the DOT, FAA, and NTSB, we contest this assertion.”

“Independence from influence is similarly crucial to maintaining the integrity of the NTSB’s investigatory recommendations,” the members continued. “Once an investigation is complete, the NTSB must be able to issue safety recommendations uninhibited by politics, industry, and costs, and—perhaps most crucially—without fear of retribution or censorship from parties who may be biased, vested, or even at fault.”

“With this in mind, it is clear the NTSB’s independence must be protected in order to maintain the integrity and safety of the U.S. transportation system. Since commercial space transportation is an important element of the U.S. transportation system, the NTSB’s authority to investigate such commercial space accidents is unequivocable,” the members concluded.

The NTSB is delegated authority to provide critical oversight to all modes of transportation, including commercial space transportation.

The full letter text can be found here