People board airplanes to travel long distances on a daily basis. Overall, this is a considered a safe mode of transportation. But when a report surfaces of something happening mid-flight, people tend to become concerned about safety during their next trip.
Regardless of the type or size of aircraft, investigations into plane crashes are complex matters which involve many people, processes and procedures established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But if you’ve ever thought about what a crash investigation entails, you may be interested in knowing the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) examines far more than the mechanics of the airplane when assessing the cause of an incident and searching for ways to improve air travel safety.
Investigation specialty areas
The NTSB has assigned “go teams,” groups of investigators trained and ready for immediate dispatch to accident sites. Each member of a team responsible for investigating a crash has an assigned specialty and responsibility. These include:
- Human performance – exploring any and all possibilities for human errors which may have contributed to an accident
- Air traffic control – looking at radar data and the transcripts of air traffic communications with the aircraft
- Weather – checking the National Weather Service’s data around the time and space of the accident
- Systems – studying the flight control systems and instruments
- Operations – examining the history of the assigned duties of the flight crew in the days leading up to the accident
While specialists work to determine the cause of an incident, there may be many factors involved. But regardless of how an accident transpired, news reports suggest that after a crash, time is of the essence.
Picking up the pieces
In the wake of the recent shutdown, government employees have a backlog of incidents to investigate. It is possible that conditions have destroyed evidence, which could hinder the determination of recent aircraft accidents.
Now the NTSB is in a position of deciding whether they should visit accident sites or only investigate wreckage at a storage facility. Fifteen aviation accidents wait in the wings for answers, as do the families of those involved.
Before you take your next trip, you might want to remember that air travel rarely results in safety issues for passengers, though news reports of incidents may tend to breed fear. Organizations like the FAA and NTSB are continually working to improve regulations designed to protect all involved.