Organisation of Safety Investigations
The BEA duty room is the contact point to declare an accident or a serious incident. This declaration, also called a « notification » allows the BEA to gather initial information and to take the necessary steps to initiate the investigation.
Rapidly, an Investigator-in-charge (IIC), responsible for the conduct of the investigation, is appointed. His mission is to lead the investigation from notification until the production of the final report. According to the circumstances of the event, the IIC may call in other investigators to create working groups.
When the event occurs abroad and involves France in accordance with the provisions of Annex 13 the State where the event has occurred must « notify » the BEA so that an investigator, known as an Accredited Representative, can be nominated. He is the official correspondent of the Investigator-in-Charge for the State of Occurrence.
In accordance with international agreements, representatives of the State of Registry of the airline (in the case of an accident to a foreign airline that occurs on French territory), representatives of the State of Manufacture or Design of the aeroplane and some onboard equipment or even States with a large number of citizens who are victims, are associated with the safety investigation directed by the Investigator-in-charge (IIC). They can be accompanied, at the request of the IIC and under his control, by experts from the manufacturer of the aeroplane or the airline involved.
Only those able to contribute to its progress are associated with the investigation. According to the law, they are subject to professional secrecy, since confidential or non validated information is exchanged during the course of the investigation and discussions that are indispensable to its progress cannot be made public.
The safety investigation into a public transport accident is a complex process, even when the flight recorders are available, since, given the high level of safety that is reached in public transport in advanced countries, an accident necessarily results from a chain of causes in which each event is highly unlikely. All possible factors must be reviewed: the weather, the preparation of the flight, air traffic control, the condition of the aeroplane, the pilots’ qualifications, the organisation of the airline, etc., all of which requires considerable work in seeking out information from all of those involved.
A large-scale investigation lasts two years on average, rarely less, sometimes much longer. As long as it is not finished, the BEA refuses to speculate on any scenarios for the accident that bring no understanding of the causes and thus improve safety and can only further disturb the families of the victims and public opinion.
Right at the beginning of the investigation, safety investigators from the BEA’s counterparts, assisted by experts, are associated with its conduct.