The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are the agencies responsible for monitoring air travel and investigating aviation accidents, including airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. The Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 defines an aviation accident as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any persons board the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, in which any person is fatally or seriously injured, the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure, or the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible. An aviation incident is defined as an occurrence other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operations.
Approximately 80% of all aircraft accidents occur shortly before or during take-off and landing. Human error is estimated to be a major cause in 85% of all aircraft accidents. Mid-flight disasters are rare, although not entirely unheard of.
Some causes of aviation accidents include, but are not limited to:
- Air Traffic Controller Errors
- Airplane Design or Structural Problems
- Fueling Errors
- Improper Maintenance
- Lack of Communication
- Mechanical Failure
- Midair Collision
- Pilot Drowsiness
- Pilot Errors
- Pilot Substance Abuse
- Sabotage and Terrorism
- Violations of FAA Regulations
Because aircraft are complex and operate in an environment that is complex, investigations can take a lot of time. It is important, however, to investigate the cause of any aviation accident to not only learn from it but to prevent it in the future.
Some standard steps to investigating an aviation accident may include:
- Isolating the crash site
- Calling in a specialized team of investigators
- Gathering facts in a scientific and methodical manner
- Analyzing the black box data, if it is available
- Drawing a conclusion about what happened
- Recommending changes if required
Since most accidents will have a human element involved, modern investigation techniques will most likely focus on the questions "How did the accident occur?" and "Why did the accident occur?" strictly in order to get to the underlying cause and, if applicable, future prevention. Other questions such as "Who", "What", and "Where" that fall into the realm of determining responsibility or blame may require legal assistance. Responsible parties for money damages in an aviation accident case may include but not be limited to pilots, airlines, aircraft owners, aircraft manufacturers, manufacturers of the aircraft's key parts, aircraft maintenance providers, government air traffic controllers, government weather services, and airport operators. If you feel that you or a loved one was wrongfully injured or killed as a result of an airplane crash, helicopter crash, or other aviation accident, or you experienced emotional harm due to the accident, contact the lawyers at Sweeney Law Firm to determine if you have a claim. Remember, there is never a fee unless a recovery is made for you.