The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has welcomed investigators from the United States to assist in the transport safety investigation into Monday’s large air tanker accident in Western Australia, in line with long-established international protocols.
The Boeing 737-300 was modified by the operator for aerial firebombing, and had conducted retardant drops in the Fitzgerald River National Park when it collided with terrain. Thankfully, both aircrew were able to self-extract from the aircraft without serious injuries before the aircraft was consumed by a post-impact fire.
ATSB transport safety investigators began arriving on site on Wednesday, staging from Hopetoun, to commence the on-site phase of the investigation.
On Friday they welcomed a team of six investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB - the US accident investigation agency and equivalent to the ATSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA - the US aviation regulator) and Boeing.
“We are pleased to welcome to Australia our colleagues from the NTSB, FAA and Boeing,” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell.
“Boeing’s in-depth technical and operational knowledge of the 737, and the NTSB’s and FAA’s experience in investigating large aircraft accidents, will be of valuable assistance to the ATSB as we progress this investigation.”
Mr Mitchell noted that the international standards and recommended practices for conducting and cooperating on aircraft accident investigation are set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Annex 13.
Under those provisions, as the United States was the state of design, manufacture and registration of the 737, the NTSB has appointed an accredited representative to the ATSB’s investigation, with the FAA and Boeing as technical advisors to the NTSB.
“While the investigation is the responsibility of the ATSB, we welcome the important contributions the NTSB, the FAA and Boeing will make.”
Mr Mitchell noted that international accident investigation agencies regularly work closely together, to assist each other with their investigations, and to share knowledge on best practice for conducting transport safety investigations.
“The ATSB enjoys close working relationships with our counterpart agencies across the globe. The assistance we can provide each other regularly leads to meaningful improvements in transport safety, worldwide.”