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USAF Accident Investigation Boards

Accident Investigations

The US Air Force conducts aerospace accident investigations of all Class A accidents involving Air Force aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), missiles, and space systems or equipment, unless they result in damage solely to government property (in which case the accident investigation is discretionary).  Aerospace Accident Investigation Boards (AIBs) are convened under the authority of Air Force Instruction (AFI) 51-503, Aerospace Accident Investigations.

Ground accident investigations are investigations of on-duty accidents which have occurred on land or a body of water involving Air Force military members, civilian employees and/or structures, vehicles, systems, facilities, or other property.  Ground accident investigations are conducted under the provisions of AFI 51-507, Ground Accident Investigations, and may involve accidents occurring during aircraft ground operations where there is no intent for flight, explosives and chemical agent accidents, directed energy accidents, afloat accidents, motor vehicle accidents, ground and industrial accidents, and nuclear accidents.         

Accident investigations are separate from and independent of safety investigations, which are convened under the authority of AFI 91-204, Safety Investigations and Reports. 

Class A Accidents

Class A accidents are accidents that result in fatality or total permanent disability, loss of an aircraft, or property damage of $2 million or more.

The Purpose of an Accident Investigation

The purpose of an accident investigation is:

        a. To provide a publicly-releasable report of the facts and the circumstances surrounding the accident, to include a statement of opinion on the cause or causes of the accident; and,

        b. To gather and preserve evidence for claims, litigation, disciplinary, and adverse administrative actions, and for other purposes.

In contrast, the primary purpose of a safety investigation is to find the cause of an accident in order to take preventative actions.

Statutory and Regulatory Authorities

        AFI 51-503, Aerospace Accident Investigations
        DoDI 6055.07, Accident Investigation, Reporting and Record Keeping
        10 U.S.C. Section 2254
        10 U.S.C. Section 2255


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