Our Article 16 Authorisation includes the requirement to report certain accidents, serious incidents and other occurrences. This is based on pre-existing legal requirements previously included in the BMFA Members Handbook and CAP 658. However, the CAA are wanting to reinforce the requirements (full details can be found in CAP 722, Section 2.9).
Occurrence reporting systems are not established to attribute blame or liability, they are established to learn from occurrences, improve aviation safety and prevent recurrence.
The purpose of occurrence reporting is to improve aviation safety by ensuring that relevant safety information is reported, collected, stored, protected, exchanged, disseminated and analysed. Organisations and individuals with a good air safety culture will report effectively and consistently. Every occurrence report is an opportunity to identify root causes and prevent them contributing to accidents where people are harmed.
The CAA state that:
“The safe operation of a model aircraft is as important as that of manned aircraft, and third-party injury and damage to property can be just as severe when caused by either type of aircraft.
Proper investigation of each accident, serious incident or other occurrence is necessary in order to identify causal factors and to prevent repetition.
Similarly, the sharing of safety related information is critical in reducing the number of occurrences”.
The AAIB state that:
“Any accident involving fatal or serious injury will be investigated.
Accidents/serious incidents involving aircraft operating under an approval or CAA Authorisation (including an Article 16 authorisation) will be assessed to determine the AAIB’s response and level of investigation. This could range from a full “field” investigation in the worst case down to, at the lowest level, just recording the details of the event on our database and taking no further action”.
Therefore, it is a condition of our Article 16 Authorisation that correct reporting to the AAIB and the CAA must be carried out. In addition, if the occurrence involves injury to a third party or damage to their property, then it must also be reported to our insurers to notify them in case a claim arises.
The definition of what constitutes an OCCURRENCE should be considered to determine whether a report must be submitted:
An OCCURRENCE is any safety-related event which endangers or which, if not corrected or addressed, could endanger an aircraft, its occupants or any other person. ACCIDENTS and SERIOUS INCIDENTS are classifications of OCCURRENCE.
The following OCCURRENCES must by law be reported to the AAIB as soon as possible by telephone on 01252 512299 (manned 24 hours/day) and to the CAA (this can be done via the BMFA’s online reporting portal, coming soon);
- ACCIDENTS - defined as an occurrence which takes place between the time the aircraft is about to take off until it comes to rest at the end of the flight with its propulsion system shut down, in which
- a person is fatally or seriously injured;
- the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure in operation which results (or may result) in endangering;
- the aircraft goes missing or becomes completely inaccessible in manner which could result in endangering;
- SERIOUS INCIDENTS – defined as an occurrence where there was a high probability of an ACCIDENT associated with the operation of the aircraft.
In addition to ACCIDENTS and SERIOUS INCIDENTS, it is a legal requirement to report any OCCURRENCES involving manned aircraft to the CAA (this can be done via the BMFA’s online reporting portal).
Our Article 16 Authorisation also adds the requirement to report to the CAA any SERIOUS INCIDENTS or other OCCURRENCES which involve;
- Operating above 400ft
- Operating less than 50m from uninvolved people
It is also a requirement to report any instances of flights which go beyond the visual line of sight of the remote pilot.
First of all, you should bear in mind that any reportable incident might well trigger an inquiry, run by the Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB).
The possibility of a future inquiry will usually depend on the severity or potential severity of the incident and your actions regarding collection of evidence, etc. should be with this in mind.
A fatal accident is certain to result in such an inquiry.
Previously, all such inquiries conducted by the AAIB have involved the BMFA, so there is an assurance that an experienced modeller will be involved and not someone who is unfamiliar with model operations.
In the event of an accident involving a model aircraft which causes injury to a third party, those present on the flying field will have to decide very quickly on their course of action.
In the case of a fatal incident or serious injury, there is no doubt that the first course of action will be to alert the emergency services, e.g. ambulance and police. The AAIB must also be notified by telephone on 01252 512299.
The model, radio equipment and any other items involved should not be moved or even touched, if possible. If any transmitters operating during the incident are switched off later this should be noted.
All other transmitters, the pegboard and the pits area should be left untouched until full details have been recorded.
Photographs of the area will be extremely useful and, if a camera is not available, mobile phone pictures will do; as many as possible.
Names and addresses should be taken of all those present and no one should be allowed to leave the field until a police presence has been established.
When operating on a club field, if there are no Committee members on the field then, at some point, Committee officers must be contacted. This should obviously be done as soon as possible but Club members on the field should not wait for a Committee presence to take care of the steps outlined above, many of which need to be done quickly.
For any incident that has not resulted in a fatality but is still serious, a police presence will probably not be required and the level of evidence collection may be reduced but you should always remember that an inquiry might be held into the incident.
Plenty of photographs of the scene, possibly impounding the model and radio equipment, names and addresses of witnesses and notes taken at the time will all be extremely helpful if you consider that you may be involved in an inquiry. It will also help in any insurance related queries that might arise.
These events have more stringent requirements details of which are in the Display Organisers Handbook downloadable from the BMFA web site or direct from the Leicester Office.
Do not be complacent about this matter. Any incident, serious or potentially serious, that occurs in front of the public will almost certainly be reported to the press, probably before the dust has settled, and the press will almost certainly contact either the AAIB, CAA or the BMFA for comment.
Consider the consequences of a telephone call from the press to the AAIB or CAA on a Monday morning asking for details of the ‘model aeroplane crash’ that turns out to be a serious one and neither the AAIB, CAA or the BMFA has any knowledge of it!