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 Aviation Accident

Passenger Airline Accident Investigations

General Aviation Accident Investigations


Photo of airplane.

Passenger Airline Accident Investigations

Family assistance operations coordinated by the NTSB may be required for major passenger airline accidents that involve airlines with scheduled air services and non-scheduled air transport operations. Family assistance operations may be established near the accident location when the Federal Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996 or Foreign Air Carrier Family Support Act of 1997 are activated by the NTSB.

If you are a survivor, family, or friend involved in or affected by a passenger airline accident, please contact the airline immediately to ensure access to available services. You can also contact the TDA Division directly for assistance or call 202-314-6185.

Please review the NTSB TDA Information for Survivors, Families, and Friends Brochure for Major Aviation Accidents that describes what survivors, family, and friends can expect during a passenger airline investigation by the NTSB and additional details related to assistance available.


Photo of general aviation airplane.

General Aviation Accident Investigations

General aviation accident investigations typically refer to civil aviation operations other than scheduled air services or non-scheduled air transport operations. Please review the NTSB TDA Information for Survivors, Families, and Friends Brochure that  describes what survivors, family, and friends can expect throughout a general aviation accident investigation by the NTSB and additional details related to the information provided on this webpage.


Assistance for General Aviation Accident Investigations

Although there is no requirement for the NTSB TDA Division to respond to general aviation accidents, TDA Specialists work with the NTSB’s Investigator-In-Charge (IIC) who is responsible for leading the safety investigation, and local and state agencies to coordinate assistance and information for survivors, family, and friends, either by telephone or on-scene if launched to the accident location. The NTSB TDA Division remains a primary point of contact to survivors, family, and friends during the course of the investigation and provides updates on the release of information associated with the investigation.


Short-term Counseling & Referrals

Short-term emotional support services and referrals are available at the request of survivors, families, or friends at no cost through our partners, the American Red Cross. Please contact the NTSB TDA Division directly for more information or to request this support.


Victim Identification Process

Victim recovery, identification, determination of cause and manner of death, and death certification are the responsibility of the medical examiner or coroner in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. The NTSB TDA Division can provide contact information for the appropriate local authority upon request.


Personal Effects

The NTSB may take custody of personal effects like personal electronic devises or other items relevant to the investigation. Depending on condition, these items may be returned to the owner or a designed family member typically at the conclusion of the investigation. Personal effects not collected by the NTSB may be collected by the medical examiner or coroner, law enforcement or another agency involved in the response. The NTSB TDA Division can assist with questions about personal effects retained by the NTSB or provide contact information for other agencies that may have personal effects in their custody if known.


Accident Wreckage

The NTSB has the authority to retain control of and manage access to the wreckage involved in the accident during the investigation. Inquiries regarding status of wreckage under NTSB control may be directed to the NTSB TDA Division.


Media Interactions

The NTSB does not coordinate interviews with media for family members, friends, or survivors. However, media representatives may attempt to contact you after an accident. The NTSB will not release the identities of victims or survivors of accidents. Such information may be released by the transportation operator involved or local authorities where the accident occurred.


General Aviation Accident Investigation Process

Due to the possible complexity of general aviation accidents and the extensive nature of the investigation process, a general aviation accident investigation often requires 12 to 24 months to complete. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the IIC along with other NTSB investigators or party members may travel to the accident site to collect information. The NTSB has the authority to designate organizations, corporations, or agencies as parties to the investigation. Only representatives who can provide technical or specialized expertise are permitted to serve as a party member and report directly to the NTSB. The NTSB will not determine the cause of an accident while on scene.

The following are reports and products that can be issued during the course of the investigation and accessible using the NTSB Aviation Accident Database:

  • The preliminary report provides a synopsis of factual information collected during the on-scene phase of the investigation. This report is typically available within two weeks after the accident.
  • The factual report consolidates relevant factual information and is released at the conclusion of the fact-gathering phase of the investigation. This report replaces the preliminary report and is typically available 12 to 24 months following the accident.
  • The final report provides the analysis, probable cause, and findings, and also contains the factual report. This report is published typically available 6 to 8 weeks following the release of the factual report.
  • The accident data summary provides a synopsis of the analysis, probable cause, and findings, and is released with the final report.

An accident docket contains relevant factual information collected during an accident investigation that is used in the development of reports, summaries, and if issued, safety recommendations. The docket is available to access when the factual report is released.

If safety recommendations or safety alerts are issued because of an investigation, these can be issued at any time during the investigation process.


Staying Informed

If you are requesting information related to a general aviation investigation, please complete an Investigation Update Request Form or contact the NTSB TDA Division for additional assistance.