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Thread: Thoughts on TCC accident investigations

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Novato, California

    Thoughts on TCC accident investigations

    With this new forum available, let me post here some thoughts about how Type Clubs might interact with accident investigations. This topic was of great interest during the TCC meeting at AirVenture 2014, and several of us have had private discussions. My perspective comes from two roles, one as a safety advocate within an active pilot community that mostly (but not only) Cirrus SR2X aircraft, and the other as an invited party to an NTSB investigation.

    • What to expect when type clubs become involved with accident investigations
    • How to find out about accidents in your type of airplane
    • Who are the focal points in the FAA and NTSB
    • Who are the focal points in the Type Clubs
    • Best practices for protocols to engage with accident investigations

    Some thoughts for each of these topics.

    What to expect
    — accident investigations follow professional procedures
    — NTSB has responsibility for general aviation, but workload is very high, averaging 30 open investigations per investigator
    — FAA often begins the investigation because they have more local access
    — some investigations have known circumstances, usual from pilot statements, so they will have less depth
    — some investigations will involve close scrutiny, including NTSB R&D specialists as well as component specialists
    — expertise in a Type Club can help answer questions posed by the investigators, as well as suggest things to look for during the investigation
    — over time, building credibility and relationships will encourage deeper involvement (but lets all hope we don’t need to investigate more accidents in your type)

    How to find out
    — jungle drums often transmit info about accidents from local club members, instructors, airport managers, etc., so identifying a safety contact who remains connected to those who know about your aircraft type helps
    — many news reports contain aircraft identification, so a Google News Alert set for something like “Cirrus crash” will send you email notifications (caution that many news reports misidentify the aircraft or use generic words like “experimental” or “light aircraft”, so it takes a bit of pruning to find the wheat in the chaff)
    — the FAA Preliminary Accident and Incident Report web page provides the most authoritative and timely reports of accidents (see the current reports here:
    — the NTSB preliminary report will appear on the NTSB database within 10 business days for significant investigations, meaning that some investigations with known circumstances will not appear until the final report does

    FAA Focal Points
    — Tom took down the contact info here

    NTSB Focal Points
    — Jeff suggested the type club find the regional office near the accident to determine the assigned investigator (see
    — note that investigators are assigned on a rotating basis, so your accident may be investigated by someone different than the investigator of the last accident of your type

    Type Club Focal Points
    — at a minimum, we need an information contact
    — better would be to add a technical and/or safety contact
    — best would be to ensure that type clubs can update this information as it changes, perhaps by occasional prompts

    Best Practices
    — people wanting to help with accident investigations need to come up the learning curve and meet the professionals at a higher level of understanding
    — researching prior investigation reports about accidents in your type of aircraft may help give you a better understanding of the ways you could help improve the reports
    — better if participants become familiar with the NTSB investigation process (see
    — best if participants understand past efforts at safety improvements, especially the NTSB report on Safety of Experimental Amateur Built Aircraft (see
    — Jeff and I have been named as Parties to the Investigation, which is the gold standard for participation on the inside of the investigation and comes with several onerous obligations that people need to understand
    — Parties must sign a 14-page agreement the sets out your responsibilities and commitments, notably that all information about the investigation be kept confidential within the investigation team and any shared information must come from the NTSB Investigator in Charge
    — technical expertise may be useful for the investigation team, but requests will likely originate from the team to the Type Club
    — timely and informative responses to questions from the investigator will build credibility
    — suggestions of what to look for or questions to research may be very helpful and begin to establish a relationship with the investigator, but respect that the investigator determines where the investigation goes
    — theories of what happened, or speculation about what happened, are less helpful early in the process when the focus is on gathering factual information, so be prudent about that kind of communication

    A closing thought: both the FAA and NSTB appreciate the potential for involving people with needed expertise. This may be design, engineering, construction, operation, or safety analysis expertise. However, the level of professionalism involved is high, so we need to do our part to meet them where they need the expertise.

    A significant benefit of being helpful is the opportunity to guide the investigation and learn more that can help other pilots.

    Aviation Safety Chair, Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Excellent thoughts Rick. I think one way to help the Type Clubs is to offer a short course on the investigative process.

    Jeff Edwards

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    North Carolina
    Quote Originally Posted by LOBO1 View Post
    Excellent thoughts Rick. I think one way to help the Type Clubs is to offer a short course on the investigative process.

    Jeff Edwards
    I would think this is a very important topic for the EAB community but less so for production aircraft with large #'s in service. In the case of Twin Cessnas, Cessna has it's own safety team that participates in investigations as do Continental and RAM. Our Director of Tech Support, Tony Saxton, is well known by all and is called in when needed but we don't actively try to participate in accident investigations. Our experience is that the usual parties do a very good job.

    Rick, I'd be interested in learning the specifics of why COPA has felt the need to participate in accident investigations. What expertise did the FAA/NTSB lack that COPA was able to provide?

    Bob Thomason
    Twin Cessna Flyer

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