When Worlds Collide – Federal Government Style

by William Angelley on July 1, 2012

Truth is stranger than fiction.   With fiction, it has to be believable.  With truth, however, it can be bizarre.  Such is the case with a recent mid-air collision between two small planes in Virginia, just outside of Washington DC.  Left at this, the story is not all that remarkable.  Such mid-air crashes are not unusual.

In this case though, an employee of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) owned one of the planes, and an employee of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) owned the other.  Remember, the NTSB is charged with the role of investigating civil transportation accidents, including aviation crashes.   The FAA, an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is tasked, among other things, with the regulation of civil aviation.

Can the NTSB conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation of a crash that hits so close to home, particularly given the ownership of the other plane?  If they can, will any conclusion be defensible, or will it be subject to too much criticism and political attack?  Turns out that the NTSB doesn’t want to find out.  Enter the Canadians.  The NTSB, after consulting with the FAA, has asked their Canadian counterpart, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, to investigate the accident even though it took place in U.S. airspace.  This is probably the best thing they could have done under the circumstances.  It’ll be interesting to see what the Canadians conclude.  No matter what the result, it certainly makes for a bizarre and one-of-a-kind situation.

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