Information for Family and Friends Following an Aviation Accident

As a family member or friend of a victim of an aviation accident, you may have many questions about the safety investigation and the role the Safety Investigator will play in your life over the next days, weeks, months. This page has been created as a guide to explain the CAA accident investigation process, and answer some of your initial questions.

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What is a Safety Investigation?

Following an aviation accident, the CAA carries out a safety investigation on behalf of the Director of Civil Aviation. It is important to appreciate that the primary purpose of the safety investigation is to identify the probable cause(s). It is not the intention of the safety investigation to apportion blame or liability.

How Long Will the Safety Investigation Take to Complete?

The CAA is responsible for investigating a large number of aviation accidents and incidents throughout New Zealand and overseas.

Each Safety Investigator is involved in multiple safety investigations at any one time. The purpose of each investigation is to obtain accurate information to improve aviation safety.

A safety investigation can include a scene examination, review of relevant documentation and fact gathering processes. This may take several weeks, or even months, and the completion of the final report may be up to 12 months later.

The overall length of time it will take to complete the safety investigation is difficult to determine, as each accident is different, and each safety investigation is carried out methodically and scientifically using technical expertise.

How will the Accident be Investigated?

Initial Enquiries

The CAA will assign an Investigator-in-Charge (IIC). The IIC will be responsible for managing all aspects of the safety investigation. The IIC may conduct a scene examination. This may involve taking photographs and recording details of the accident scene. The IIC will also liaise with Police and emergency personnel on site.

The Next Steps

Once any scene examination is complete, the IIC will decide which components of the aircraft are required to be retained for further analysis. The IIC will then methodically talk to witnesses and persons directly involved with the aircraft. It may also be necessary to gather information from family members and friends of those involved. This may include requests for personal documentation, such as the Pilot’s Logbook.

The IIC may also request documentation relating to the aircraft and its maintenance activity. Assistance will also be sought from organisations responsible for meteorology, air traffic control and pathology.

The Final Phase

At the conclusion of the safety investigation phase, the IIC will produce a report for the Civil Aviation Authority.

What Happens to the Final Accident Report?

When the final accident report is completed, it will be published on the CAA web site ( to provide information to the aviation community. Copies of the report will be provided to the Director of Civil Aviation, the family, and the Coroner.

Investigation Interaction

The IIC is responsible for the safety investigation. Enquiries regarding the investigation should be directed to the IIC. It should be noted that the scope of the safety investigation is aimed at improving aviation safety and therefore circumstances may limit what the IIC or the Manager of the Safety Investigation Unit can discuss or release.

Similarly, should you have information you believe useful to the safety investigation, this can be directed to the IIC or the Manager of Safety Investigation.

Formal requests for information should be made in writing and addressed to the Official Information and Privacy Adviser.

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