NTSB Becomes Focus of Its Own Story

The National Transportation Safety Board comes under fire for its role in a reality TV show.

Alaska Aircrash Investigators
The show Alaska Aircrash Investigators follows NTSB investigators in Alaska.Smithsonian Channel

When the National Transportation Safety Board agreed to take part in a Smithsonian Channel series about aircraft accident investigation, chairman Christopher Hart and other members of the staff never expected their day-to-day work to become a topic of conversation to members of Congress. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and the Senate Appropriations Committee recently demanded an explanation of the board's participation in what she called a reality show, when early episodes of Alaska Aircrash Investigators hit the air in April. Murkowski wondered whether government funds were being properly used in the making of the documentary that followed around a number of NTSB investigators as they sifted through post-accident evidence to determine a probable cause.

More succinctly, however, Murkowski said the show unfairly depicts the role of aviation in her home state, although others who viewed the show saw the programs as reflecting well on the state, understanding of course the program was accident investigation. The senator also claimed the program leaves viewers with the impression that aviation in Alaska is less safe than in other locations, although many industry insiders believe the state does face challenges not found elsewhere. Sources claimed Murkowski was also reacting to unfavorable comments her office received from businesses around the state.

Traditional reality TV shows typically focus on outrageous subjects riddled with fictional segments, while Alaska Aircrash Investigators showed NTSB personnel working the facts like true industry detectives.

In the video below, I suggest Senate time might be spent more effectively than criticizing the board’s participation in the show.