- Work on investigating and helping prevent air accidents
- You'll need excellent technical and analytical skills and problem solving ability
- You may need to travel to remote areas and the work may be physically and emotionally challenging
Air accident investigators are responsible for piecing together information about air accidents to determine what caused them and to help prevent them from happening in the future. They use a range of different investigation and analysis techniques to do this, and work with large and complex scenarios and datasets.
Your day-to-day duties will depend on your exact role but they might include:
- Co-ordinating a team to respond to an incident
- Gathering and recording evidence to build a picture of what happened
- Reassembling or dismantling wreckage to look for clues
- Recovering data from flight recorders and instruments
- Using drones to survey accident sites
- Piecing together events that led to an accident
- Managing the different stages of an investigation
- Updating relatives on progress
- Especially in fatal accidents
- Writing accident reports
- Making safety recommendations to regulators and the industry
- Acting as an expert witness at inquests and official inquiries
You may need to travel to remote areas and your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.
As an air accident investigator you'll need to be thorough and pay attention to detail, to build knowledge of manufacturing production and processes, patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software, the ability to use your initiative, analytical thinking skills, excellent verbal communication skills, persistence and determination, and to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently.
If you want to work as an operations inspector, managing an accident response team, you’ll need a pilot’s licence and flying experience.
To be an engineering investigator or flight data recorder inspector, you’ll need a relevant degree or postgraduate qualification and several years’ recent experience in aerospace engineering.
Relevant courses include aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering, electrical or electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, and mathematics.
Cranfield University also offers a postgraduate course in Safety and Accident Investigation, which is specific to air transport.
Some investigator roles look at the part played by human factors in an incident, and a degree and postgraduate qualification in psychology would be useful for these.
As well as a university qualification, you’ll need several years’ experience of working in aircraft engineering.
A pilot’s licence may also be required for some jobs, like an air accident operations inspector.
You'll also need to pass security checks, have a full UK or EU driving licence, and meet UK nationality requirements.
If you work as an engineering or flight data recorder investigator, you could progress to become an operations director, co-ordinating the investigation process. You could also progress to chief accident inspector.
Alternatively, you could use your experience to work as a consultant with aerospace manufacturers, safety regulators or aviation industry insurance companies.