How would an accident report read?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Michael Mormon
  • 22nd Operations Group
As an aircrew member, I ask myself, "how would an accident report read," when I'm flying and faced with a decision not directed in our technical orders and regulations.

Asking yourself this prior to a decision may help you anticipate some of the items an accident report may note and can keep you safe whether it is flying, driving or anything potentially dangerous in life.

Five years ago, I attended the Air Force Flight Safety Officer Course. This course trains you how to run a flight safety program, including how to investigate flight mishaps. I was anxious to investigate my first mishap to "test" my investigative skills. But I was never selected for such a duty, so it began to slip my mind that I could be called upon in an accident investigation. However, there is a saying; "Once a flight safety officer, always a flight safety officer."

This past summer I helped investigate a Class-A flight mishap investigation of a C-130 Hercules that crash landed a few miles from Baghdad International Airport, Iraq. I was worried I would not remember all my training and those feelings were compounded by the fact that our investigation team would be going "outside the wire" in Baghdad.

When I was selected to serve on the mishap board, I was be responsible for compiling our findings and recommendations into a report that would be briefed to the Air Mobility Command commander and released to the Air Force Safety Center to be used worldwide for mishap prevention. I was part of a team that grew to more than ten members from various backgrounds and bases. Our mission was to determine why the aircraft crash landed and make recommendations to prevent future mishaps; all without any practice with the other team members.

Normally a mishap team has 30 days to complete the investigation. Due to the austere environment of the mishap and the fact the aircraft had to be operationally destroyed for security reasons (which destroyed some of the evidence that may have helped solve the investigation sooner) our investigation would more than two months to complete.

Our team worked every day for a minimum of twelve hours. It was imperative we solve this case sooner than later since the C-130 is such a valued asset in the Global War on Terror. The cost of failing this mission would be another C-130 could have similar mechanical issues, with more devastating results. Fortunately, the 32 passengers and six crewmembers escaped serious injury in this crash landing.

The hard work our team did paid off when we released a new critical procedure in a safety supplement to the aircraft's operator manual, called Dash-one. Later, a Little Rock Air Force Base aircrew from Alabama, used this supplement to recover their engines after all four rolled back soon after takeoff. The procedure our team wrote may have saved the saved the aircrew's lives, which gave further incentive to figure out why the engines were losing power.

A few weeks later we were able to determine why the engines had rolled back and flamed out on the mishap aircraft. The tenacity of the team to stay the course and solve this mishap uncovered decades of unanswered mechanical questions for the C-130.

My experience on the Safety Investigation Board re-affirmed the reasons I serve and why many others continue to serve despite the long hours and months away from loved ones. The key is the people we serve with.

At the end of my experience I realized that to really see how an accident report reads you don't need to read the print on the paper, but choose a course of action that prevents a report being written at all.