Air accident investigator
Air accident engineering inspector, air accident operations inspector
Air accident investigators search for the causes of accidents and serious incidents, involving civilian aircraft.
Salary range: £72,500 to £82,000
How to become an air accident investigator
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- applying directly
You’ll usually need a degree or postgraduate qualification in engineering or a related subject. Courses include:
- aerospace engineering
- aeronautical engineering
- electrical or electronic engineering
- mechanical engineering
You may be able to do a postgraduate course in safety and accident investigation, which covers 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 usually need:
- 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including maths
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You can apply directly to become an air accident investigator.
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.
You can also take short courses in accident investigation techniques, which may help broaden your knowledge of the role and skills required.
You can find out more about how to become an investigator from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- 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
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
- be a UK citizen
- pass security checks
- have a full driving licence
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day duties will depend on your exact role but may 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 could work in remote rural areas, in an aircraft hangar, in a laboratory or in an office.
Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding and you’ll travel often.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
If you work as an engineering or flight data recorder investigator, you could become an operations director, co-ordinating the investigation process. You could also progress to chief accident inspector.
You could use your experience to work as a consultant with aerospace manufacturers, safety regulators or aviation industry insurance companies.
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