Accidents are common occurrences in the aviation industry. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are responsible for investigating aviation accidents and giving safety recommendations. In addition, they develop rules, policies, and laws to alleviate reduce accidents (Federal Aviation Administration, 2011).
The two bodies work together through exchange of information and research findings. The NTSB was founded in 1967 and is responsible for investigating and resolving cases linked to accidents involving various modes of transport (Elliot, 2013). To maintain the board’s autonomy, any information, data, or statistics collected cannot be used as evidence in a court of law.
On the other hand, the FAA was founded after enactment of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. It oversees operations and activities related to civil aviation. Some of its core roles include issuing and revoking pilot licenses, developing civil aeronautics, regulating aviation standards, and regulating the aviation industry in order to maintain and promote safety (Elliot, 2013). In case of an accident, the two bodies work together to find the cause and offer recommendations.
Interaction during investigations
The main division of the NTSB involved in accidents investigations is the “Go Team.” The team’s main role is to commence investigations shortly after an accident has taken place. Team members offer their expertise at the scene of accident in efforts to ascertain the cause. The team comprises several professionals from the Board’s headquarters in Washington who are usually specialists in different fields.
Within the FAA, the Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention is involved in accident investigation (Federal Aviation Administration 2011). The office identifies transportation hazards and risks, and consequently develops safety measures aimed at improving safety.
The two agencies interact during an accident investigation by carrying out their respective roles. The NTBS main role is to enhance transport safety. It is responsible for investigating aviation, marine, pipelines, and railways accidents (Federal Aviation Administration, 2011). On the other hand, the FAA enacts policies and regulations that govern the transport industry.
Therefore, the NTBS cannot make any rules or establish new policies to govern the transport sector. However, it can give recommendations o the FAA regarding necessary policies and procedures that can be enacted to improve safety. During an investigation, the NTBS plays a major role. It investigates the matter thoroughly and determines cause of the accident.
The FAA is also involved. It sends a representative to the scene of accident to aid in determination of the cause. The role of the representative is to establish whether any rules and regulations were violated, which could have led to the accident. The FAA does not give a final ruling on the matter. The NTSB collects necessary data and information from the scene while the FAA determines whether rules and regulations were violated (Federal Aviation Administration 2011).
Together, the two bodies work to determine how and why the accident occurred. Their interaction and cooperation are augmented by their common goal of improving transport safety. During an accident, the FAA helps the NTBS conduct investigation. In addition, it conducts its own investigation to ensure that safety is given priority.
FAA investigation of an accident
The FAA investigation of an aviation accident involves many aspects. For example, it includes a review of whether the air carrier involved in the accident complied with FAA’s rules and regulations, reviews whether the aircraft had necessary maintenance guidelines and manuals, and reviews all the company’s safety guidelines and procedures (Federal Aviation Administration 2013).
Other things involved in an investigation include review of pilot’s expertise and medical history, maintenance logbooks, adherence to flight times, and a review of the status of airport structures and amenities. The FAA collects any information that could aid in identifying cause of the accident (Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association 2013). Any information relevant to the investigation is shared with the NTBS investigation committee.
After an accident has been reported, the local Flights Standards District Office commences gathering information and data on the possible cause of the accident. The Operations Office within the FAA notifies the NTBS’ headquarters and the responsible local office (Federal Aviation Administration 2013).
During an investigation, the Operations Center provides teleconferencing and other communication services to help both the FAA and the NTBS teams. Interaction starts before commencement of investigations. The FAA arranges for transportation of NTBS members to the scene of accident. During investigation, the FAA provides additional services to members.
These services include medical aid and financial funding. In addition, it provides miscellaneous services such as component testing and research (Federal Aviation Administration, 2013). The NTBS organizes and manages investigation teams and ensures that all necessary tests are carried out.
Before termination of an investigation, every investigation member must agree to the validity and viability of information collected. During an investigation, the FAA reviews the recommendations and analyses of the NTBS in relation to aviation guidelines and policies.
Investigation by the NTBS
Immediately after an aviation accident occurs, the NTBS sends a “go-team” to the scene of accident within two to three hours (National Transport Safety Board 2009). Prior to the release of the team, the Board sends a representative from the regional or local office to the accident scene. The IIC, an investigation division of the NTBS organizes and manages the investigation team at the scene (National Transport Safety Board 2009).
It coordinates and oversees all investigation activities. The representative from the regional office commences investigation before arrival of the go-team. The IIC has several roles in an investigation. First, it ensures that evidence that could lead to identification of the accident cause is secure (Federal Aviation Administration 2013). Second, it identifies any hazardous materials that could be harmful to investigators.
Third, it manages the crash site. Upon arrival at the scene, NTBS investigation members make a tour of the scene and get a briefing from the officer in charge (National Transport Safety Board 2009). Go-team members form teams to commence investigations.
Specialists in areas such as air traffic control, operations, aviation systems, and aircraft performance lead the teams. An aircraft performance specialist carries out most of the investigation by assessing the aircraft’s systems and components for faults (National Transport Safety Board 2009). Another specialist conducts interviews and reviews the aircraft’s records.
Tests to determine aircraft defects
After an accident, the FAA and NTSB utilize several tests to determine if factors such as structural failure and fire were possible causes of the accident. Some of the methods used to detect defects in aircraft include liquid penetrant, ultrasonic, infrared thermography, sonic, Eddy current, and magnetic particle methods (Khan 2009). Aircraft structures are easily destroyed by fires and lightning.
Therefore, non-destructive testing (NDT) methods are used to establish possible causes of damage on aircraft components. Degree of damage depends on type of structure and material used to make the aircraft. The team also gathers additional information and data that assist in determination of the cause of the accident. It collects ATC radar data, weather data from the National Weather Service, transcripts of radio transmissions, and pilot’s medical history (Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association 2013).
Eddy current and ultrasonic inspection methods are used to detect tiny cracks in the structure of an aircraft (Khan 2009). In addition, the method is used to measure degree of metal thinning that is caused by corrosion. In extreme cases, X-ray techniques are used to detect defects inside the structure of the aircraft’s components that cannot be detected using other methods (Khan 2009).
Liquid penetrant method is used to detect surface defects in the structure of the aircraft. Magnetic particle method is used to detect defects on any ferromagnetic material used in construction of components such as gearboxes, pumps, and shafts. Resonance methods are used to detect weaknesses in bonds between composite structures (Khan, 2009).
After on-scene investigation, the investigation teams commence a period of report writing that includes combining all their findings (National Transport Safety Board 2004). In addition, the period involves further research that includes gathering of facts and collection of data. Information is collected from public hearings, after which it is analyzed and included in the final report.
After presentation of the report, the NTBS establishes follow-up events that go on for a period of over six months to ensure proper implementation of safety recommendations. The report-writing process begins with a meeting that involves members of the NTBS safety board. They deliberate of activities such as tests and interviews with survivors (National Transport Safety Board 2004).
In addition, the team agrees on a date for presentation of the final report. Members that do not belong to NTBS such as FAA members contribute by reviewing, commenting, and offering suggestions on the report draft. If deemed necessary, a public hearing is included in the report-writing process. Public hearing is necessary for accidents that involve massive loss of lives.
Participants during a public hearing include survivors, FAA regulators, air traffic controllers, aircraft manufacturers, and fire and rescue professionals (National Transport Safety Board 2004). The FAA serves a critical role during the report-writing process. It reviews the analytical process and ensures that all regulations relating to aviation safety standards are adhered to (National Transport Safety Board 2004).
Its role in the process is minimal. The IIC integrates factual reports from various parties into a final report. In addition, it makes conclusions and recommendations. The report is then given to several agencies that deal with aviation safety such as Office of Research and Engineering (ORE), the Office of Safety Recommendations, and the general counsel.
Recommendations are the most important aspect of an aviation accident investigation. The safety Board is given the responsibility to give recommendations that could improve safety of the aviation industry. The board addresses safety deficiencies and issues recommendations based on findings of the investigation (National Transport Safety Board 2010).
The report helps improve safety through implementation of recommendations from the investigation team. The FAA and NTBS give recommendations on how aviation safety could be improved. The NTBS establishes follow-up activities to ensure that recommendations are implemented (National Transport Safety Board, 2010).
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are responsible for investigating aviation accidents. In addition, they develop rules, policies, and laws to alleviate the problem of aviation accidents that have been on the increase in recent past. In an aviation accident investigation, the FAA and NTSB work together in efforts to find the cause.
Each of the agencies plays a different role. For example, the NTSB collects data and information related to the accident and analyzes it. On the other hand, the FAA reviews findings of the NTSB and finds out whether any aviation rules and regulations were violated, which could have been a cause of the accident. During an investigation, the NTSB and FAA conduct several tests to detect defects in the structure of the aircraft.
Tests are meant to determine whether factors such as fires and lightning were causes of the accident. These tests include destructive and non-destructive tests. Methods used for non-destructive tests include liquid penetrant, ultrasonic, infrared thermography, sonic, Eddy current, and magnetic particle methods.
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Elliot, P. (2013). NTBS an FAA investigate Air Show Crash. Web.
Federal Aviation Administration: Lessons Learned from Transport Airplane Accidents. (2011). Web.
Federal Aviation Administration: Accidents and Incidents Data. (2013). Web.
Khan, A. Non-Destructive Testing Applications in Commercial Aircraft Maintenance. (2009). Web.
National Transport Safety Board: The investigative Process at NTSB. (2009). Web.
National Transport Safety Board: Aircraft Accident Report. (2004). Web.
National Transport Safety Board: Safety Recommendation History. (2010). Web.