The National Transportation Safety Board announced that Robert L. Sumwalt once again is the agency's vice chairman, taking over the spot on the board from fellow Member Bella Dinh-Zarr. He also replaces Dinh-Zarr as acting chairman as the nation's independent crash investigation agency awaits a full-time leader.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve our nation as the NTSB’s vice chairman,” said Sumwalt. “I want to thank Christopher Hart for his leadership during his tenure as the NTSB chairman, and Bella Dinh-Zarr for her outstanding work as vice chairman and most recently as acting chairman. Together they have helped advance transportation safety, making us all safer, while also making NTSB one of the best places to work in government,” said Sumwalt.Hart, meanwhile, will remain on as an NTSB Board member for the conclusion of his current five-year term, which ends on Dec. 31.
Before joining the NTSB Sumwalt was a pilot for 32 years, including 24 years with Piedmont Airlines and US Airways, accumulating more than 14,000 flight hours. During his tenure at US Airways, he worked on special assignment to the flight safety department and also served on the airline’s Flight Operational Quality Assurance monitoring team.
Sumwalt chaired the Air Line Pilots Association’s Human Factors and Training Group and co-founded the association’s critical incident response program. He also spent eight years as a consultant to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System and has written extensively on aviation safety matters.
Dinh-Zarr replaced former Chairman Christopher Hart on March 16. She was elevated to the post from that of vice chairman while NTSB awaited President Trump's decision on chairman. Last Friday, NTSB announced that Trump intends to renominate Sumwalt for another five-year term and designated him as the new vice chair. President George W. Bush appointed Sumwalt to a two-year term as vice chair in 2006, and President Barack Obama followed by reappointing Sumwalt to an additional five-year term as board member in 2011.
Dinh-Zarr will remain at NTSB. She holds a Ph.D. and a master's degree in public health from the University of Texas. She joined the NTSB Board on March 23, 2015, shortly after Hart became chairman. Dinh-Zarr was appointed vice chairman a week later.
She is a former director of the U.S. Office of the FIA Foundation, an international philanthropic organization that promotes road safety, injury reduction and clean air. Its slogan is "Safe, Clean, Fair and Green" mobility. Dinh-Zarr is also the former North American director of Make Roads Safe: The Campaign for Global Road Safety, and is the formern national director of traffic safety policy for AAA. She also served as a scientist at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and held positions the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Texas Transportation Institute.
Hart became a member of the NTSB Board in August 2009, and was subsequently designated vice chairman by President Obama. He was nominated for a second term as board member in August 2013 and has overseen several high-profile investigations into school bus crashes as well as NTSB's annual Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements, which have championed enhanced school bus occupant protection via lap-shoulder seat belts to fully complement compartmentalization as well as crash mitigation and avoidance technologies for school buses.
Nominated as chairman in January 2015 by President Obama, Hart served as NTSB acting chairman the year prior after Deborah Hersman concluded her service and joined the National Safety Council. Hart has also been a frequent speaker at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services as well as the National Association for Pupil Transportation.