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NTSB Chair Calls Out Sensationalized Aviation Headlines

News stories on what many industry insiders consider to be minor incidents have caught the NTSB Chair's eye.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy delivers opening remarks at the “Navigating Mental Health in Aviation” safety summit. (Photo: Leah Walton/NTSB)

Amid a flurry of recent headlines around commercial aviation incidents, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy is speaking out. “I’ve seen a lot of sensationalism around aviation lately,” she said in a recent Tweet.

The last few weeks have seen an uptick in news reports pertaining to commercial flights, particularly from mainstream outlets. These reports even prompted United CEO Scott Kirby to send a letter to customers saying, “Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, our airline has experienced a number of incidents that are reminders of the importance of safety.”

United has borne the brunt of the media spotlight with a slew of recent incidents, including a falling wheel from a 777-200 and a panel that went missing on a 737. The Chicago-based airline joins Boeing, which has been in the spotlight following January’s door plug blow-out on Alaska flight 1282.

In her post, Homendy touted aviation’s robust safety culture compared to U.S. roadways. “118 people will die on our roads today. Where is the outrage?” she said.

“The fact is our aviation system is the safest in the world and all of us – investigators, regulators, airlines, employees, and manufacturers – are working to make sure it stays that way. I will say it again, the riskiest part your travel day is driving,” she continued.

The Chair cautioned that the industry’s work to improve upon its strong safety culture never ends. “That does not mean we don’t have more to do to ensure safety in our skies. Our work is never done. But imagine what could happen if we were just as focused on eliminating death on our roads: we could achieve zero…together.”

Newsrooms have locked in on a wide array of incidents in commercial aviation, many of which are regular – and sometimes even daily – occurrences. The San Francisco Chronicle caught wind of a United flight that had a “mechanical problem with the plane,” but returned to the gate before departure; a common practice that seldom draws attention.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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