Robert Sumwalt, who spent 15 years on the National Transportation Safety Board, including nearly five as chairman, is taking on a role as a distinguished fellow in aviation safety and executive director of the new Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Center for Aviation and Aerospace Safety.
Sumwalt will step into the position on January 4 to launch the center, which will tackle a range of safety issues surrounding new technologies from unmanned aerial systems and urban air mobility technologies to human-machine and machine-to-machine interfaces. The center Is anticipated to encompass areas such as automatic taxiing, use of artificial intelligence, and streamlined or trajectory-based operations. It may also look at areas such as alternative aviation fuels, new training systems—including virtual and augmented reality tools—and other technologies.
“Embry-Riddle’s Center for Aviation and Aerospace Safety will serve as a business magnet for our region, by attracting industry and government partners eager to identify timely solutions,” said University president Barry Butler. “Robert Sumwalt’s deep knowledge of aerospace safety issues and his professionalism and commitment to excellence make him an ideal leader of this much-needed new enterprise.”
Sumwalt also will spearhead other aerospace safety research and outreach activities for the university and will have oversight responsibilities of existing safety initiatives. He will be tasked with creating an external advisory board of industry and government experts as well as recruiting talent; promoting student participation in research projects; providing career counseling for students; working with Embry-Riddle academic leadership to guide and mentor center-affiliated faculty; and coordinating guest lectures, events, and professional development programs.
“My goal is to continue making human mobility as safe as possible,” Sumwalt said. “I’m excited about this opportunity and I look forward to cultivating transformative partnerships with government and industry.”
Sumwalt departed the Safety Board in June after becoming one of its longest-serving members. Joining the NTSB in 2006 and serving under four U.S. presidents, he was appointed chairman in 2017. He has been a pilot for 32 years, including 24 years with Piedmont Airlines and U.S. Airways, and has amassed more than 14,000 flight hours and earned type ratings in five aircraft.
In 2014, Sumwalt has a master of aeronautical science degree from Embry-Riddle Worldwide.