What does your job involve?

My objective is to establish the cause of all kinds of aviation accidents in the UK and sometimes abroad if it involves an aircraft made or registered in the UK or large numbers of British passengers. We have a watching brief on all incidents and will follow up the ones that could have wider implications, as well as any that involve fatalities.

It's extremely varied – sometimes you might be working in the office, following up on some of the more minor incidents by phone or email but sometimes you will be deployed at the scene of an accident.

I tend to have between six and 10 investigations on the go at once, of which two to four might be field investigations.

My ultimate goal with an incident is to make safety recommendations to the manufacturer or airline that will prevent similar accidents in the future.

How did you get into the industry?

It was a pipe dream! I wanted to work in the airline industry since I was a kid living in Hong Kong, where I spent lots of days watching aircraft at the airport. I took a degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Hertfordshire (then Hatfield Polytechnic). I worked as an aerodynamicist at British Aerospace and then moved to British Airways as a technical services engineer. This involved investigating component failures and air safety incidents, which is where I gained some useful experience for my current job.

What skills do you need?

It's very hard to recruit for this position because it needs such a broad range of skills. The engineering aspect is just one side of it. You also have to be a strong people person – talking to bereaved relatives requires sensitivity and compassion and you may have to talk to people who are distrustful and wary of government bodies, so you need good diplomacy skills.

The people I work with come from many backgrounds – some from airlines, others from the military or aircraft manufacturers. It's the breadth of your experience, rather than specific technical know­ledge, that's most im­portant here.

We will be recruiting in the future, to help us with the organisation's demographics.

What are the rewards?

The technical challenge of solving the accident is a great motivator. It also feels worthwhile being able to make a positive contribution to flight safety if our recommendations are adopted.

And the challenges?

Geographical issues, in terms of difficult weather or terrain, can be a problem. You also have to deal with the bad accidents as best you can. It isn't pleasant but we have to focus on the technical aspects of the job. That occupies your mind most of the time. Any new people or anyone who has issues over this gets a lot of support back at the branch. It's done informally but you never feel the need to bottle things up.


Ross: job needs a broad range of skills

Source: Flight International