Recent Accident Investigations are disconcerting
Flight Safety sees faults and proposes new approach
Good concept, but some details need to be rectified
Below, Flight Safety Foundation looks at recent accidents and proposes to elevate investigations from individual Accident Investigation Bureaus to a new system of regional authorities—International Accidents Investigation Authority (IAIA):
By Jon Hemmerdinger22 January 2020
The Flight Safety Foundation thinks that creating new, regionally based aircraft crash investigation teams could help bring impartiality and expertise to crash probes that might otherwise be hamstrung by politics, bias and technical inexperience.
Recent commercial aircraft crashes and resulting investigations have led the nonprofit to consider recommending such investigation teams be formed, at least in some regions of the globe, says Flight Safety Foundation chief executive Hassan Shahidi.
“A regional model would be good first step… We are looking into it,” Shahidi tells FlightGlobal on 21 January.
“What we really need is an independent, well-staffed and trained cross-border international accident investigation authority,” adds Flight Safety Foundation general counsel Kenneth Quinn.
Should the group approve the idea, it could recommend it to ICAO, which sets guidelines for aviation crash investigations.
Those guidelines call for accidents to be investigated by the state in which they occur, though states may pass investigations to other states. Representatives of countries from which affected airlines and manufacturers hail are also entitled to participate. [ ICAO Annex 13 establishes those parameters.]
Many countries have accident investigation bureaus, but only several have the technical expertise and independence from political pressure needed to complete unbiased reviews, Quinn says.
“The problem we really have, which is actually acute, is that we have accident investigation authorities that are too slow, that are too biased and are too inexperienced, and they don’t have enough resources,” he says.
Forming independent investigation boards could help ensure international conflicts and diplomatic pressures do not influence investigations. Such groups could be counted on to complete their work “in a timely way that doesn’t trash the reputation of manufacturers or an airline, and that can be treated with trust”, says Quinn.
Accident investigations involving international parties have long proved contentious, but recent crashes have spurred more discussion about a solution.
For instance, experts have concern whether Iranian authorities will permit an unbiased review into the loss of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 on 8 January. Iran already said its military accidently downed the Boeing 737-800 with a missile.
Likewise, some safety experts have faulted Indonesia’s investigation team for placing outsize blame on Boeing for the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air 737 Max. They have raised similar concern about the still-ongoing investigation into the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max in March last year.
Annex 13 Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation establishes the rules for monitoring developments in accident investigation techniques and practices as well as accident prevention matters; monitoring developments in system safety concepts and practices. The review of the Ukraine International Airlines crash near Tehran airport now involves the Accident Investigation Bureaus –
Civil Aviation Organization of Islamic Republic of Iran ( سازمان هواپیمایی کشوری جمهوری اسلامی ایران)
National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine (Національне бюро з розслідування авіаційних подій та інцидентів з цивільними повітряними суднами)
The ICAO Accident Investigation Section (AIG)
Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA,Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile)
Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSBC)
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
The confusion of having six governmental bodies involved and the imbalance among the technical competence of them, especially the lack of knowledge and experience of the two Boards with greatest involvement (Iran and Ukraine) must make it an awkward situation.
This accident is similar to other recent crashes in that political considerations may have influenced the substance of the analyses:
France Finds Major Faults With Egyptian Accident Investigation- ECAA Found OK By EASA, FAA And ICAO?
The Flight Safety Foundation paper suggests that for some regions, a system of independent, well-staffed and trained cross-border international accident investigation authority(ies) be established. The overarching name is IAIA, This proposal, which is clearly merited, raises questions:
- Which regions and who decides what regions need this special assistance?
- How does the lack of independence or stated otherwise, the existence of political influence is determined?
- Periodic reviews
- What body makes these judgments
- Is the international accident investigation authority (IAIA) a stand-alone organization?
- ICAO has a large voting block of countries; would it be a truly impartial sponsor for the IAIA? Example: Country A has an AIB with clear political ties; would the Council or Assembly vote to invoke an IAIA for a fellow Member?
- Who would fund the IAIA?
- Should the IAIA be limited to being involved in accident investigations?
- The FAA/EASA/IATA/ICAO existing, duplicative, inconsistent (among their judgments) surveillances do not provide the sort of holistic intervention needed to bring CAAs up to international standards. The audits critique the CAA and then leave. Implementation of the recommendations needs continuous assistance.
o Might not those funds be better used to JOINTLY and Consistently work with CAAs and Accident Investigation bureaus more with the proactive, prioritized approach of SMS and without the fault-finding?
Should be an interesting discussion of the FSF proposal
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