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Learning from accidents: Updates of the European regulation on the investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation


  • Arnaldo Valdés, Rosa María
  • Gómez Comendador, Fernando


Civil aviation has a longstanding tradition of investigating accidents and reporting incidents, which contributes to making aviation one of the safest forms of transport. To make flying safer, independent investigation into accidents is essential as it the surest way of identifying the causes of an accident and answering the fundamental questions "What really happened?" and "What can be done to prevent similar incidents in the future?". The obligation to investigate accidents is enshrined in the Chicago Convention of 1944. Recognizing the importance of accident investigation, the European Union adopted Council Directive 94/56/EC establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of civil aviation accidents and incidents and later on Directive 2003/42/EC on occurrence reporting. They both significantly contributed to harmonization of accident prevention. But with air traffic steadily increasing, accidents do happen despite the best efforts of regulators and industry. The organization of the air transport sector is much more complex now than it was a decade ago. Today there is significant divergence in the investigating capacity of the EU Member States compared to 1994. Furthermore nowadays investigating air accidents take new kinds of expertise and more resources than a decade ago. At the same time there is a new legal and institutional environment in Europe derived from the adoption of European aviation safety rules. Also the organizational set-up has changed substantially with the establishment of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is now responsible for certifying aircraft in the EU. The EU rules on investigating air accidents need to be updated to reflect the current realities of Europe's aviation market and the complexity of the global aviation industry. Accordingly, over the last few years the European Commission has been working on a Regulation on the investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation, with the intention of updating and replacing the existing Directive. With this new regulation the Commission aims to promote more efficient and independent inquiries into the causes of air accidents and also expects to strengthen the rights of the victims of air accidents. Today the end is in sight, once that the Commission and European Parliament have reached an agreement about the content and text of this new regulation. Reasons behind this new regulation are presented in this paper together with a detailed explanation of its main contents, an assessment of their impact and their expected benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Arnaldo Valdés, Rosa María & Gómez Comendador, Fernando, 2011. "Learning from accidents: Updates of the European regulation on the investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 786-799, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:18:y:2011:i:6:p:786-799

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