Gary Halbert is a partner in Holland & Knight's New York Litigation Practice Group, practicing out of the firm's Washington, D.C. office. Mr. Halbert is a former U.S. Air Force instructor pilot, military attorney and crisis communications director, and more recently, the General Counsel to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). His practice areas include supporting a variety of transportation clients in NTSB accident investigations, regulatory matters for aviation and other transportation modes, transportation accident claims, aviation accident litigation, transportation mass-disaster litigation, claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and other product and professional services liability matters. Since joining Holland & Knight, Mr. Halbert has assisted airlines, other operators, and manufacturers in more than two dozen U.S. and foreign accident investigations.
Immediately prior to entering private practice, Mr. Halbert served as the General Counsel to the National Transportation Safety Board, acting as the senior legal advisor to the Chairman of the Board and overseeing the provision of legal services to the agency. His office provided legal support for accident investigations in all modes of transportation, procurement and leasing activity, fiscal law matters, and the agency’s human resources function, and oversaw the board’s review on appeal of enforcement proceedings undertaken by aviation and marine regulatory agencies. Mr. Halbert also supervised the NTSB’s administrative and civil litigation, legislative drafting and ethics programs. He drafted two of the agency's reauthorization requests to Congress.
Mr. Halbert joined the NTSB after retiring in the grade of Colonel from the United States Air Force, where his diverse operational and staff assignments included service as a military instructor pilot in jet aircraft, commander of student classes going through pilot training, executive officer to a wing commander, and as a judge advocate in progressively responsible positions. His military legal assignments embraced both civil and criminal law functions, including installation claims officer, hospital attorney and criminal prosecution roles. Mr. Halbert handled Federal Tort Claims Act claims for alleged medical malpractice of almost $120 million during his time as legal counsel for a large military hospital, and in a subsequent senior counsel role, devised a strategy that achieved completion of an $18 million military family housing project at no additional cost to the Air Force, after the prime contractor defaulted. Mr. Halbert served as the senior legal officer at two installations, including one of the Air Force’s larger bases, and supervised 14 legal offices with 180 attorneys and staff for an overseas command responsible for 21 installations in seven European countries. At Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon, he oversaw the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s attorney assignments and human resources division for an attorney workforce of over 1,300 attorneys. He also served as the Executive Officer to the Judge Advocate General. In his final Air Force assignment, he served as the director of the Air Force’s strategic and crisis communications office.
Mr. Halbert has accumulated approximately 1,500 flight hours in military jet aircraft, single engine general aviation aircraft and sailplanes.
He is a frequent speaker on interacting with the NTSB investigation process following a major transportation accident, whether it’s an aviation, railroad, pipeline, hazardous materials, marine or highway accident. He is an expert on the NTSB statutory and regulatory structure and investigative process, having supported every major investigation undertaken by the NTSB over his five-year tenure as General Counsel.