aircraft accident and incident reports

Aircraft accidents are investigated by both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Each agency has specific responsibilities and functions in the investigation of an accident and each prepares a report of their findings.

The NTSB has the responsibility to determine the cause of the accident and to provide Safety Recommendations to the FAA or other entities as to how to avoid other accidents due to that cause. The FAA investigates an accident or incident to determine whether or not any Federal Aviation Regulation, FAA policy, or standard has a defect or needs to be changed or modified. These programs include such areas as pilot certification, aircraft certification, operating rules, etc. Both agencies work very closely with many other groups such as manufacturers, pilot groups, industry organizations, etc., in order to accurately determine the cause of the accident.

The FAA investigates all accidents and incidents to some extent based on the specific situation. The minimum report which will be produced by the FAA is an Initial Notification followed by a Preliminary Report. These reports are normally available in a matter of days and in some cases these will be the only reports produced. The NTSB prepares reports on selected accidents, normally those of a serious or significant nature based on the current NTSB criteria. In many cases, the NTSB delegates the investigation and completion of the report to the FAA. Most NTSB reports are available in about six months, however, reports concerning major accidents may not be available for a year or more.

The general aviation aircraft owner or pilot can gain some insight into the causes of accidents by reviewing accident reports and summaries contained in most aviation magazines. A number of aviation organizations such as the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) also provide selected reports to their members. NTSB reports can be reviewed on the Internet by accessing the NTSB web site at "" once the report is final. Daily initial notification reports from the FAA can be viewed on the EAA sponsored Internet web site at "". A good method of tracking a particular accident is to check the Initial Notification reports on the EAA web site, note the aircraft registration, the date, and the location of the accident and then access the NTSB web site several months later with that information to find the final NTSB cause report.

The FAA will review the accident reports to identify trends and specific areas that appear to be causing accidents. For example, 64% of the general aviation accidents over the past 20 years are directly attributable to the pilot. The FAA has developed a number of specific programs to alert pilots to these areas and to require additional training in certain areas. Trends such as an increase in powerline strikes will prompt the FAA to provide training aids such as videos to the aviation community in an effort to decrease this type of accident. Additionally, the FAA will use the results of an accident investigation to identify specific problems which may require the issuance of Airworthiness Directives (AD), or Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIB). The product manufacturer may also issue special instructions in the form of Service Bulletins (SB) and Service Letters (SL).

The general aviation pilot can review the accident record of a particular model to help him/her to determine whether or not that model requires additional training because of certain operational characteristics. An example could be, a particular model aircraft has a large number of loss of directional control on landing/takeoff accidents that were pilot induced. This should be an indicator to the pilot changing to that particular model of aircraft that additional training in ground handling should be sought prior to flight in that aircraft. Pilots of amateur-built aircraft should participate in such programs as the EAA Flight Advisor Program to assure themselves that they are proficient in the varied handling characteristics of this type of aircraft.