Aviation safety

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is Australia's prime agency for the independent investigation of civil aviation accidents, incidents and safety deficiencies.

The ATSB is governed by a Commission and is entirely separate from transport policy makers, industry operators, and from transport regulators such as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

In the aviation transport mode, the ATSB conducts 'no blame' aviation safety investigations in accordance with the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act). The ATSB does not investigate for the purpose of taking administrative, regulatory or criminal action.

Annex 13 (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation) to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention 1944) prescribes international principles for aircraft accident and incident investigation, and the provisions of the TSI Act are designed to reflect those principles.

The TSI Act contains a scheme for the mandatory reporting of occurrences that are classified as Immediately Reportable Matters (accidents & serious incidents) and Routine Reportable Matters (incidents). It is from these initial reports that the ATSB makes a decision on whether or not to investigate. The decision is based on factors such as safety value to be obtained from the investigation and where resources may best be targeted.

In addition to investigating accidents and incidents, the ATSB investigates safety issues based on occurrence trends that could lead to a future accident. For example, the investigation into aviation fuel contamination affecting thousands of smaller aircraft at the end of 1999, could have led to a serious accident and highlighted a range of safety deficiencies in global aviation fuel standards and refining.

The ATSB also participates as an accredited representative on investigations of accidents and serious incidents involving Australian-registered aircraft overseas. In accordance with Annex 13, from time-to-time the ATSB assists other overseas agencies in the investigation of accidents and serious incidents that do not involve Australian-registered aircraft.

The ATSB makes a significant contribution to the safety of the Australian aviation industry through investigation, analysis, open reporting and education on civil aviation safety matters free of any conflict of interest and without 'fear or favour'.

The objective of investigating accidents and incidents is to prevent the occurrence of future accidents and not for the purposes of apportioning blame or liability.

The results of ATSB investigations are presented in terms of findings and significant factors. The ATSB does not utilise the term 'cause' which can be confused with legal causality, and is not restricted to, identifying only one causal factor as the most important in a particular occurrence. The majority of air safety occurrences are the result of a complex interaction of many factors that may need to be addressed for the purposes of accident prevention. Like its overseas equivalents, the ATSB has no power to implement its recommendations, which are advisory only.

Aviation Accident & Incident Notification telephone ATSB (toll-free, 24 hours): 1800 011 034

Submit an accident or incident report

Last update 01 July 2022