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This lecture traces the story of aircraft accident investigation in the UK from the setting up of the Public Safety and Accidents Investigation Committee of the Royal Aero Club in 1912 to the present day. It covers the appointment of a former member of the Club committee as the first Inspector of Accidents of the RFC in 1915 and the official setting up of the first civil Accidents Investigation Branch of the Air Ministry in 1919. The known activities of the Branch during the inter-war years and the process of Public ‘Court’ enquiries are also described. The return to a largely military organisation through the Second World War followed by the role of the Chief Inspector of Accidents in drafting the international protocols for Investigation of Accidents on International Civil flights which were adopted as Annex 13 of the ICAO convention in 1951, is also addressed.

The function of the Branch in supporting the public enquiries between 1946 and 1972 and as advisors to military Boards of Enquiry from 1945 until 2011 will be highlighted, together with the AAIB contribution to the safety of the expanding UK airline industry and all other aspects of post war civil aviation after 1946.

The progress to independence from regulatory activity following the setting up of the CAA in 1972 is outlined and the movement away from the process of Public Enquiries will be noted. Finally the present arrangements for both civil and military accidents investigation in the UK and overseas will be described.

About the speaker:

Peter Coombs, Senior Inspector of Accidents, AAIB

Peter Coombs entered the aircraft industry in 1965 as a Student Apprentice with the Filton (Bristol) division with the British Aircraft Corporation. His industrial experience covered most laboratories and departments involved in design, manufacture testing and maintenance of large transport aircraft and missiles. This culminated in being appointed as a design engineer on the Concorde SST Project. Following a period spent at the College Of Aeronautics at Cranfield, he graduated with a Master of Science degree in Aircraft Design in 1971. Peter has been an Inspector of accidents since 1972 and has participated in the investigation of civil aircraft accidents and supported boards of enquiry into military accidents world-wide for forty years. Over this period he has carried out field investigations on more than 200 accidents and lesser investigations on a further series of more than 150 accidents not involving full deployments.

Royal Aeronautical Society
20 August 2013