The level of investigative response is determined by resource availability and factors such as those detailed below. These factors (expressed in no particular order) may vary in the degree to which they influence ATSB decisions to investigate and respond. Factors include:  

  • the anticipated safety value of an investigation, including the likelihood of furthering the understanding of the scope and impact of any safety system failures  
  • the likelihood of safety action arising from the investigation, particularly of national or global significance  
  • the existence and extent of fatalities/serious injuries and/or structural damage to transport vehicles or other infrastructure  
  • the unique value an ATSB investigation will provide over any other investigation by industry, regulators or police  
  • the obligations or recommendations under international conventions and codes  
  • the nature and extent of public interest – in particular, the potential impact on public confidence in the safety of the transport system  
  • the existence of supporting evidence, or requirements, to conduct a special investigation based on trends  
  • the relevance to identified and targeted safety programs  
  • the extent of resources available, and projected to be available, in the event of conflicting priorities  
  • the risks associated with not investigating – including consideration of whether, in the absence of an ATSB investigation, a credible safety investigation by another party is likely  
  • the timeliness of notification  
  • the training benefit for ATSB investigators.  

Aviation broad hierarchy

1) Passenger transport operations and medical transport operations (including positioning flights): 

  • air transport operations (scheduled or non-scheduled), balloon transport operations, mining fly-in-fly-out operations, scenic flights/joy flights, parachuting operations, future advanced air mobility passenger carrying operations, and aerial work operations that carry passengers who are not crew members 
  • flights formerly known as air ambulance operations, Royal Flying Doctor Service flights and patient transport/transfer services using aircraft operated by state and territory ambulance services. 

2) Non-passenger commercial aircraft operations (including positioning flights): 

  • aerial work operations such as surveying, spotting, surveillance, agricultural operations, aerial photography; search and rescue operations; flying training activities 
  • cargo transport operation 
  • large (greater than 150 kg) or medium (25–150 kg) RPAS or RPAS which is type certificated. 

3) Recreational flying, ‘private’ general aviation, and flights where the pilot shares equally in costs with passengers (cost sharing).

4) Higher-risk personal recreation/sports aviation/experimental aircraft operations. 

5) Small and very small RPA, uncrewed balloons. 

The ATSB endeavours to investigate all fatal accidents involving VH-registered powered aircraft subject to the potential transport safety learnings and resource availability.

Marine broad hierarchy

The ATSB allocates its investigative resources to be consistent with the following broad hierarchy of marine operation types:

  • passenger operations
  • freight and other commercial operations
  • non-commercial operations.

Rail broad hierarchy

The ATSB allocates its investigative resources to be consistent with the following hierarchy of rail operation types:

  • mainline operations that impact on passenger services
  • freight and other commercial operations
  • non-commercial operations.