Having a system that recognises the needs of the families of air accident victims improves the efficiency of air accident investigation, according to US National Transportation Safety Board chairman Debbie Hersman.

The NTSB has just launched a campaign to persuade the global aviation community that the time is right to adopt a local equivalent of its transport disaster assistance programme.

Speaking at the Flight Safety Foundation's International Aviation Safety Seminar in Milan, Hersman said that while providing information and assistance for relatives of accident victims is certainly the right thing to do, an effective system for helping relatives also relieves investigators of the pressure to respond to human needs and the media reaction to family distress - enabling them to better concentrate on identifying the crash cause.

Hersman said: "I have been on-scene at approximately 20 major transportation accidents, and I can tell you first-hand that having the family assistance team on site is a great asset. And, based on conversations with colleagues from other transportation safety organisations around the world, there is a growing recognition of the need for family assistance programmes."

Hersman noted that, in Europe, legislation being drafted to set up a European system of aviation accident investigation will, for the first time, recognise that the rights of victims and their relatives is an essential part of the process of dealing with the aftermath of accidents.

The NTSB has organised an international family assistance conference to take place in Washington DC in March 2011.

Source: Flight International