President Barack Obama nominated Deborah Hersman for a third term as chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, two days before her appointment was to expire.

Hersman, 43, has been chairman of the accident investigation agency since July 2009. The NTSB is coping with its busiest stretch since the 1990s.

Her profile has been raised this year as the public face of the board’s investigations into what caused a battery to catch fire on the Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner, and the July 6 crash in San Francisco of Asiana Airlines Inc. Flight 214, the first fatal passenger airline accident in the U.S. in four years.

“I am grateful for the faith that President Obama has placed in me and look forward to working with my fellow board members to make transportation — across all modes — safer for our citizens,” Hersman said in an e-mailed statement.

The safety board chairman, who must be confirmed by the Senate, helps guide probes, hold hearings and recommend safety improvements, without authority to implement them.

Obama separately signed an order making Hersman the acting vice chairman, which doesn’t require Senate approval, said Kelly Nantel, the agency’s spokeswoman, in an interview.

That allows Hersman to continue running the agency if the Senate doesn’t approve the nomination before Hersman’s current term ends. The Senate is scheduled to go on recess for five weeks starting today.

Christopher Hart, who has been the vice chairman, was also renominated by Obama today to remain on the board.

Hersman’s name was mentioned earlier this year as a possible successor to Ray LaHood as Obama’s transportation secretary by West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, one of Congress’s most senior Democrats. Obama instead chose Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx.

A former staff member on the Senate Commerce Committee that Rockefeller now heads, Hersman was appointed to the safety board in 2004 by President George W. Bush.

Editors: Bernard Kohn, Elizabeth Wasserman. To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Shepard in Washington at 

Tags: ntsb, politics
Photo Credit: Deborah Hersman, Chairman of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) speaks, as San Francisco Mayor Lee stands beside, during a news conference at San Francisco International Airport. Stephen Lam / Reuters