Monday, December 29, 2014

National Transportation Safety Board Alaska welcomes new investigators

After a competitive search involving more than 150 candidates, the National Transportation Safety Board -- the federal agency tasked with investigating civil aviation accidents (and major accidents on the land and in water) in the U.S. -- announced last week the arrival of two new investigators to the Alaska Region Office of Aviation Safety. Shaun Williams and Millicent Hoidal bring to the state a wealth of diverse aviation experience and return the Alaska office staff to its full complement for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

Williams was formerly with the Federal Aviation Administration in Alaska, where he was responsible for the initial certification of Part 135 carriers, which includes charter and air taxi operators. Prior to that he was a Canadair CL-65 captain for Air Wisconsin where he gained many hours operating in cold weather environments. Williams graduated from the University of North Dakota and is an airline transport certificated pilot with airplane single-engine land and multiengine land ratings and is type rated in Beech 1900 and Canadair CL-65 airplanes. He also holds a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings.

The move from the FAA to NTSB will allow Williams to explore different facets of the aviation environment and, as he said in a recent interview, "get more into the why and how" of aviation accidents. He's keen to promote safety in different ways to Alaska pilots.

"As an example," he said, "during hunting season Alaska often suffers a number of accidents. We would like to get information out to pilots on the common causes of those crashes and how to mitigate them."

Hoidal has been with the NTSB since internships with the Operational Factors Division in Washington, D.C. and the Southwest Regional Office in Texas. Most recently she worked as a contract duty officer with the agency's Response Operations Center. She has degrees from Louisiana Tech University and Texas State University and is working toward a graduate degree in commercial aviation from Delta State University. Hoidal also holds a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land and multiengine land ratings and a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land, multiengine land, and instrument ratings. She is the first female aircraft accident investigator assigned to Alaska.

Even as a newcomer to the Anchorage area, Hoidal is keenly aware of the state's unique relationship with aviation.

"Aviation permeates every level of the community and people's lives," she said. "Everyone has airplanes here and the wide range of environments they fly in are so different, from the Interior to Southeast and everywhere else. There is a great adventure opportunity to work in this office and so much to learn; the aviation community is much different from the rest of the country and presents a chance to learn both from the other investigators here and the places I will go on the job."

According to Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson, there were many "wonderful candidates" for the Alaska openings.

“As chief of the Alaska office of the NTSB, adding Shaun and Millicent to our office brings a wealth of valuable operational experience, and I feel very blessed with the team we’ve assembled,” he said.

“The NTSB’s trademark is to carry out and deliver thorough, in-depth accident investigations, and the addition of these new investigators to the Alaska office will help us to deliver on that pledge. Simply put, I feel we owe it to the flying public here in Alaska.”  

Both Williams and Hoidal will continue NTSB accident investigation training for the next year. They will also have to attend the NTSB’s training academy in Washington, D.C., and have already starting launching alongside Alaska's two "journeymen" investigators, Chris Shaver and Brice Banning, as well as other investigators assigned to the NTSB Western Pacific region. 

Alaska's NTSB investigators handle an average of 100 aviation accidents a year and also travel to assist on investigations outside the state when needed.

- Original article can be found at:

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