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Thread: Wartime AIB procedures - quick and dirty or thorough?

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    Default Wartime AIB procedures - quick and dirty or thorough?

    Can anyone share any stories of accident investigations that they have come across? I have one that appears to have been quite hastily done. There were lots of witnesses but the end result left much to be desired. It all seemed to have been quite poorly thrown together.

    Were they often a case of, "oh damn, lost another one" and lets move on? There was a war on and many accidents did occur but it does seem odd that they did such a poor job on this, a crash involving the deaths of a u/t pilot, an instructor and a w/op on a simple, short flight that went horribly wrong.

    Specific details are coming later, but I wanted to get a feel for how these were done in general.
    David

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    Hi
    The majority of the ones I 'have seen/have copies of', are quite deep in detail, I even have a course booklet issued to the AIB trained instructors, This is quite comprehensive.
    So maybe quality was only reduced when there were a lot of crashes in a short period of time ?
    Cheers
    Jerry

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    Thanks Jerry. Does the book say who is supposed to convene the inquiry and what witnesses should be called? In this case, evidence from a Met officer might have been useful but none was called.

    Was the AIB a separate department brought in for each case or did local commanders supervise the inquiries. Can anyone point me to a good reference on their history?
    David

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    Dave, in RCAF documents there are often preliminary accident reports, which are simple factual reports. They sometimes make preliminary conclusions or findings without much analytical support. The conclusions can be different in subsequent reports. The investigative reports that follow are more detailed, but I find even these sometimes lacking by today's standards. A frequent finding is "pilot error" without much further comment. Modern reports will spend a lot of effort getting to the root cause behind the error (improper training, fatigue, excessive workload, etc.) which I rarely see in Second World War accident investigation reports.

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    All the AIB reports I have copies for from the war time period were signed off by the Chief Inspector of Accidents, a Mr Newton. Quite a few also included the inspectors report which was a very structured data collection process with each area titled and an entry submitted. Some would be information about the a/c's data such as construction numbers and then other areas were entrys for damage to particular parts and how failures occurred. It was from these that the final report was written up.

    Also taken into account were the service Court of Inquirys, which on the whole did seem to be fairly short, though some minor accidents (forced landings) seemed to go on for a couple of days.

    The headings from the AIB inspectors reports were:

    1. Type and marking of aircraft
    2. Type and number of engines
    3. Type of propellers
    4. Owners of aircraft or Service Unit
    5. Date and Time of accident
    6. Exact location of accident
    7. Certificate of Airworthiness No.
    8. Weather conditions
    9. Object of flight
    10. Pilot's History, licence and injuries
    11. Crew history, licences and injuries
    12. Passengers injuries
    13. Airframe History
    14. Engine History
    15. Loading, armament and / or special equipment
    16. Circumstances of flight
    17. Distribution of wreckage
    18. Sketch Map
    19. Witnesses' statements
    20. Port Wing
    21. Starboard Wing
    22. Centre section
    23. Fuselage
    24. Fin
    25. Tailplane
    26. Undercarriage
    27. Tailwheel
    28. Ailerons
    29. Aileron tabs
    30. Elevators
    31. Elevator tabs
    32. Rudder
    33. Rudder tabs
    34. Flaps
    35. Slats
    36. Flying Controls
    37. Power units
    38. Engine installation
    39. Cockpit
    40. Oxygen
    41. Miscellaneous
    42. R.D.A.'s Defects
    43. Fire in air or on ground
    44. Interference with wreckage
    45. Date and time of Inquest
    46. Service investigation
    47. Investigator's opinion

    Certainly these areas do seem a little short of today's standards where crew fatigue index etc is taken into account but in other areas it seems to remain the same. For example in the early headings about the a/c and its engines would be information about hours flown / logged and overhaul histories which may be collected seperately now (presented seperately at least).
    Last edited by alclark; 21st October 2009 at 23:25.
    Alan Clark

    Peak District Air Accident Research

    http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/

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    Thanks Al, that's a great list to have.

    (and thanks too Bill, forgot to include you before).

    It has been pointed out to me that I jumped to a conclusion - that the AIB was always involved in these investigations. The particular inquiry I have at the moment was not done by the AIB, however, according to their web site, the AIB did do military investigations and in fact had its origins with the RFC.

    The report I am looking at was a "Proceedings of Investigation" completed on an RAF Form 12 (with the words "Court of Inquiry" struck out). The investigating officer was S/Ldr D.G. Allison, 21 Group, RAF Cranwell.

    The headings on this form are:

    List of Witnesses
    1. Description of Aircraft
    2. Description of Occupants
    3. The purpose of and instructions for the flight(s)...
    4. The aircraft took off...
    5. The accident occurred at the place and on the date set forward...
    6. The flying experience of the pilot prior to this flight...
    7. We/I have have examined the following aircraft, engine, flight authorization etc.
    8. We (I) have visited the scene of the accident...
    9. We (I) have been unable to obtain the evidence of the following material witnesses...
    10. Conclusions
    11. This accident (is not) is [struck out] being investigated by the Accident Investigation Branch.

    So, my apologies to the AIB, but now I am wondering, what determined if they were called in or not and what amount of time/effort was the investigating officer expected to put into this kind of investigation.
    Last edited by dfuller52; 22nd October 2009 at 15:51.
    David

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    If you don't mind me widening the question a little, can anyone say how thorough an investigation and Court of Inquiry might have been into a fatality whilst training in the Great War?

    Regards,

    Kevin Mears

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    Kevin,

    I think you have to remember that this was really the start of aviation, let alone military aviation, so that whilst accidents were investigated it was, perhaps, not quite as vigorously as during WW2 and beyond. That said aircraft were much simpler in construction. I believe that considerable advances were made during the war, but perhaps it is interesting to go to the Flight magazine archive and insert 'accident' in the search engine. Limit the years of your search to one. As a for instance try going to http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1914/1914%20-%201117.html?search=accident, to get some idea what was being done.

    Brian

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    Bill, I am just picking up on your point about the first-pass accident reports - are they the ones on Form 12? I have also seen individual accident reports for the aircrew involved but they were usually not filled very much in if there was an inquiry underway.
    David

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    Thank you for that Brian, much appreciated. As you've no doubt guessed, I still can't help wondering about Wastell. The apparent lack of local commemoration and the fact that a well to do family chose not to bring their eldest son home still troubles me.

    Regards,

    Kevin Mears

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