The Honorable Robert Talcott Francis II is the former Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, a position to which he was appointed by President Clinton in January 1995 and confirmed by the United States Senate.
After joining the Safety Board, Mr. Francis was the senior NTSB official at a number of transportation accident investigations, including the explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island, New York; the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades; and the crash of a Learjet accident in South Dakota that killed golfer Payne Stewart. Mr. Francis also chaired a number of Safety Board public hearings including the hearing on Part 145 aviation maintenance practices and oversight, and the hearing on Korean Air Flight 801 that crashed in Guam.
The TWA Flight 800 investigation in 1996 was unusual in that for 16 months it was unclear whether the cause of the crash was a terrorist act or an accident. As a result there was co-leadership of the investigation between Jim Kallstrom, from the FBI, and Francis, from NTSB. This led to significant exposure of NTSB investigators to law enforcement procedures and security issues and at the same time exposed FBI investigators to NTSB safety investigations.
While at the Safety Board, he was instrumental in assisting Taiwan in setting up an independent aviation investigative organization; and after leaving the Board, he worked with the Egyptian Government on a similar project. In addition to his accident investigation experience, he is actively involved as a member of the Executive Committee of the Flight Safety Foundation’s Board of Governors and a former member of the Foundation’s ICARUS Committee, a group composed of worldwide aviation experts who gather informally to share ideas on reducing human error in the cockpit. He has specialized in international aviation safety and security issues, and has spoken extensively, sometimes on behalf of the Foundation, both in the United States and internationally.
Prior to his appointment to the Safety Board, Mr. Francis, fluent in English and French, served as Senior Representative for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to eight countries in Western Europe and North Africa, based in Paris, France. Representing the FAA Administrator, he worked extensively on aviation safety and security issues with U.S. and foreign air carriers, transportation governmental authorities, aircraft manufacturers, and airport executives. During his posting in Paris, Mr. Francis was involved in civil aviation security responsibility (which at the time was still the responsibility of the FAA). He was significantly involved in the French-led investigation of the bombing of UTA flight 772 and worked closely with Judge Brugiere of France and FAA security experts.
In December l989 after a security threat against Northwest Airlines Flight 51 from Paris CDG to Detroit, Francis worked closely with the airline, the Paris Port Authority, and airport police as well as FAA and Northwest security specialists. This particularly involved briefing and discussion with the 130 passengers and the flight crew. The aircraft finally left CDG minus one crew member and with 23 passengers aboard. Preparation for the departure involved using many of the measures which we now find part of routine airport and airline security requirements. After the bombing of Pan American Flight 103, Francis testified before the Presidential Commission on Pan Am 103, was instrumental in setting up regional FAA security offices in Europe, and worked extensively with the FAA and U.S. and European manufacturers on explosive detection technology.
Before being named by the FAA Administrator to the position in Paris, Mr. Francis was in charge of all FAA activities in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. This involved air carrier certification and oversight, airport planning and technical assistance, as well as security and safety consulting.
Mr. Francis currently works out of Farragut International, LLC, a broad-based advocacy consultancy specializing in transportation and related issues. In addition to his speaking engagements, Mr. Francis is a safety consultant for major U.S. carriers as well as U.S. airports and manufacturers. He has done international aviation consulting in Asia, Europe and Latin America. While at Farragut, he has maintained his contacts with senior European aviation officials at the European Civil Aviation Conference (and its predecessor the Joint Aviation Authorities), the European Aviation Safety Agency, and other national authorities.
In April 2014, Mr. Francis was appointed to TSA’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. This advisory committee enhances TSA’s security posture through consultation with key partners concerning potential risks to infrastructure, passengers and cargo and provides recommendations for improving aviation security methods and equipment. In addition, ASAC gathers input from stakeholders on the effectiveness of security procedures and develops recommendations for possible improvements. Members of the committee serve a two-year term.
Mr. Francis is a recipient of an Aviation Week and Space Technology 1996 Laurels Award and was recognized by both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard for meritorious service in the TWA Flight 800 investigation. He also is a recipient of the L. Welch Pogue Award presented by Aviation Week in recognition of his achievements in aviation safety and operations.
A native of Cohasset, Massachusetts, Mr. Francis received his A.B. from Williams College and attended Boston University and the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He holds a commercial pilot certificate with instrument and twin-engine ratings. He is a member of the NBAA Safety Committee, the French Academy of Air & Space, the London Guild of Pilots and Navigators, the Wings Club of New York, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and Chairman of the Royal Aeronautical Society Washington Branch, and a member of the Aero Club of Washington.
- Williams College (A.B., 1960)
- Attended Boston University and the University of Ibadan, Nigeria