When a civilian aircraft is involved in a crash, the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, investigates. Their “Go Team” and regional investigators are on scene as quickly as possible, fulfilling their charge of investigating the causes and safety issues which may have led to the crash. While the NTSB tries to determine what caused the crash, and makes recommendations to avoid crashes in the future, its goal is not to protect the legal rights of victims or their families, or to compensate them fairly for their damages related to the crash.
Established in 1967 by an act of Congress, the NTSB also investigates railroad, highway, marine and pipeline accidents and is responsible for developing new safety guidelines. It may also assist in military investigations, when asked to do so, and assists in international incident probes as part of an international treaty The NTSB grew out of the Air Commerce Act of 1926 when the agency was part of the Department of Commerce.
Once the “Go Team” arrives, they do everything from study the history of the flight to documenting the wreckage, injuries and post-crash response. They also examine the aircraft’s components such as the electrical and hydraulic systems, surrounding scene and the weather conditions. They calculate impact angle to help determine the pre-impact course and altitude of the aircraft. In addition, they look at the crew’s performance to study whether factors like human error, drugs or alcohol, or work environment played a role in the accident.
Once the on-site work, including a review of the team’s field notes, is completed, the investigation of the airplane crash continues in Washington, D.C., where complex testing and analysis is conducted. Part of the process may involve public meetings, including a final session when a “Probable Cause Report” is approved or sent back for additional work. Manufacturers and aircraft owners are limited in their contributions, but may be asked for technical expertise and may submit their own reports to be included in the public record. The entire process usually takes between 12 to 18 months before the report is published on the NTSB website.
Hiring a law firm with extensive aviation experience is important to ensure your interests are protected during the long process of an NTSB investigation, and through the complex process of handling an aviation lawsuit the lies beyond. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an aircraft crash, contact CaseyGerry’s experienced aviation team.