When it comes to investigating aviation crashes, under federal law the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sole responsibility. When it comes to attending to the needs of crash victims' families, no one is in charge.
In the past, families often complained, justifiably, about receiving confusing, contradictory information about an investigation from different sources or about having to wait hours before an airline would confirm that a relative was on board.
A bill recently introduced in the House could help change that. It would give the NTSB the authority to oversee the concerns of families after a crash, as well as the investigation itself. Similar legislation is expected in the Senate.
Putting the NTSB in charge of families' needs shouldn't preclude airlines from doing their part.
Many of those with relatives or friends aboard TWA Flight 800 said they were impressed with all that the TWA employees did for them after the crash. Under the new legislation, the NTSB would simply help ensure that kind of response is built in, not sometimes left out.