NTSB Ends ‘Most Wanted’ Transportation Safety List

The National Transportation Safety Board said that the end of 2023 will also mark the end of its long-running “Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements” initiative – the focus of the agency’s safety advocacy efforts for nearly 35 years.

[Above photo by NTSB]

“The Most Wanted List has served the NTSB well as an advocacy tool, especially in the days before social media, but our advocacy efforts must advance,’’ said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy in a statement. “Freed from the structure of a formal list, the NTSB can more nimbly advocate for our recommendations and emerging safety issues.”

Jennifer Homendy. Photo by NTSB.

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation crash in the United States as well as significant accidents in other modes of transportation – railroad, highway, marine, and pipeline. The NTSB determines the probable cause of each incident investigated and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future incidents.

The agency’s “Most Wanted List” or MWL has enumerated its safety priorities since 1990. In December 2020, NTSB transitioned that list from a biennial (every two years) to a triennial (every three years) release. As a result, the MWL issued in 2021 had been extended to 2023.

In March 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a 37-page report that offered a series of improvements to help “improve the understanding” of the selection criteria used to develop the MWL.

“NTSB had a systematic method to determine what makes the list, but in some cases, it’s unclear how they used their criteria to make the selections,” the GAO noted in its report at the time. “If advocacy groups, industry associations, and others don’t know why NTSB is advocating for these particular safety issues and recommendations that could affect their attention to and support for tackling the issues on the list.”

GAO made two recommendations to NTSB as part of that report at the time; calling for “fuller documentation” of its evaluations concerning which items make the list and which ones don’t, along with “fuller communication” of the selection rationale on its website – especially adding why NTSB believes an issue is “ripe for action” to its documentation on its website.

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