The Air Accidents Investigation Branch
(AAIB) investigates air accidents in the United Kingdom
. It is a branch of the Department for Transport
and is based at Farnborough Airfield
The AAIB was established in 1915 as the Accidents Investigation Branch (AIB) of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).
Captain C B Cockburn was appointed "Inspector of Accidents" for the RFC, reporting directly to the Director General of Military Aeronautics in the War Office.
After the end of World War I, the Department of Civil Aviation was set up in the Air Ministry and the AIB became part of that Department with a remit to investigate both civil and military aviation accidents.
Following the Second World War a Ministry of Civil Aviation was established and in 1946 the AIB was transferred to it, but continued to assist the Royal Air Force with accident investigations - a situation which has continued ever since.
After working under various parent Ministries the AIB moved to the then Department of Transport in 1983 and in November 1987 its name was changed to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). Latterly, the AAIB has become part of the reorganised Department for Transport (DfT) since 2002.
The AAIB has 53 employees.
- Chief Inspector of Air Accidents
- Deputy Chief Inspector of Air Accidents
- 5 teams of Inspectors from all disciplines led by a Principal Inspector
AAIB Inspectors fall into one of three categories:
- Operations Inspector - must hold a current Airline Transport Pilots Licence with a valid Class I medical certificate. Able to offer appropriate command experience on fixed wing aircraft or helicopters. Broad based knowledge of aviation.
- Engineering Inspector - must hold an Engineering degree and/or be a Chartered Engineer with a minimum of 5 years' post qualifications experience. Knowledge and experience of modern aircraft control systems.
- Flight Recorder Inspector - degree level in electronics/electrical engineering or an aeronautical engineering related subject and/or is a chartered member of a relevant engineering institute with 8 years' experience since qualifying. Knowledge and experience of modern avionics.
There is also a Head of Administration who is supported by two teams, the Office Management Unit and the Information Unit, which deal with Finance and Publications.
AAIB administrative staff are part of the Department for Transport (DfT) and are recruited according to civil service guidelines.
The AAIB conducts investigations defined under one of two categories; "Accident" or "Serious Incident".
An "Accident" occurs where a person suffers a fatal or serious injury, the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure which adversely affects its performance, or where the aircraft is missing or inaccessible.
A "Serious Incident" means an incident where an accident nearly occurred.
The AAIB has investigated the following air disasters:
- The crash of the R101 airship
- Munich air disaster (An Airspeed Ambassador crashed attempting take-off during a blizzard)
- BOAC Flight 781, the de Havilland Comet that crashed off of Elba and led to the discovery of the Comet's metal fatigue problems
- South African Airways Flight 201 a second Comet brought down by metal fatigue.
- Staines air disaster (Hawker Siddeley Trident stalled and crashed shortly after takeoff)
- A British Airways Sikorsky S-61 helicopter that crashed into the sea off the Isles of Scilly. Twenty people died, making it the worst helicopter accident in the UK for several years and sparking a review of helicopter safety. It later became known as the Sikorsky S-61 disaster.
- Manchester air disaster (Boeing 737 caught fire on the ground after an engine failure)
- Pan Am Flight 103, a Boeing 747, crashed near Lockerbie, Scotland after a terrorist bomb exploded on board. All 259 people on board, plus several on the ground, were killed. The incident became known as the Lockerbie air disaster.
- Kegworth air disaster (Boeing 737 G-OBME crashed on the embankment of Britain's M1 motorway after an engine failure)
- British Airways Flight 5390, a BAC One-Eleven, suffered explosive decompression over Didcot, Oxfordshire, England when one of the front windscreen panes blew out, blowing the pilot partially out of the cockpit. The co-pilot managed to land the aircraft safely at Southampton Airport.
- British Airways Flight BA38, a Boeing 777, which crash-landed short of runway 27L at London Heathrow Airport.
- Ross Air VP-BGE, a Cessna Citation aircraft that crashed in Farnborough, London shortly after take-off from Biggin Hill Airport (investigation in progress).