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What Is the Process of a Plane Crash Investigation?

Monday, February 13, 2017By Richard Alexander

In the last 10 years, there have been only two fatal commercial plane crashes in the U.S.: Colgan Air's 2009 flight from Newark to Buffalo, N.Y. and Asiana Airlines' 2013 crash at San Francisco International Airport. Still, after a major crash, the nation waits for additional information, hoping to find out the cause of the accident.

In the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is in charge of investigating major airplane crashes. In addition to learning the "probable cause" of crashes, the NTSB makes recommendations designed to improving the safety of air transportation.

Just after an accident, the NTSB sends a "Go Team" to start the investigation. This is a team of specialists who investigates all aspects of the crash. Some of the specialties often involved in Go Team airplane crash investigations include air traffic control, human performance, operations, powerplants, structures, systems, and weather. Each component typically uses a working group as the investigation proceeds.

The head of the Go Team is known as an Investigator-in-Charge. This person is "a senior investigator with years of NTSB and industry experience." The Team reviews all factors that may have caused or contributed to an accident, whether mechanical, operational, or human.

They start by securing the scene and recovering essential evidence, such as the black box (also known as a flight data recorder) and the cockpit voice recorder. They conduct interviews of survivors, including the crew and passengers. They then compare accounts of the accident with the technical evidence, such as flight data.

Aviation Go Teams may be on-site for several weeks. Even when their on-site review is complete, they often spend months reviewing and analyzing what they have collected. They never speculate about the causes of a crash, instead taking their time to come to what they believe is the correct conclusion about causation.

The Alexander Law Group, LLP is a nationally-recognized and award-winning personal injury and product liability law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco with experience in handling aviation crash claims. We are passionate about our clients and our community. We are advocates for our clients and we invite you to read what our clients have to say. If you or a loved one were severely injured in an airplane crash, contact us at the Alexander Law Group, LLP or call 888.777.1776. All calls are free and confidential.

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