The ATSB 2013–14 Annual Report outlines performance against the outcome and program structure in the 2013–14 Infrastructure and Transport Portfolio Budget Statements. 

Chief Commissioner’s review 2013–14

2013–14 was the ATSB’s fifth year in its current form as a fully independent agency within the Infrastructure and Regional Development portfolio. I am honoured that the Deputy Prime Minister has appointed me to continue as Chief Commissioner for the next two years, which I take as a strong vote of confidence in the organisation and the work we do.

We have had another productive year in terms of our investigation outputs; at the same time, we have faced a number of serious challenges, in terms of both the complexity of the accidents and incidents we have had to deal with, and of the availability of resources.

By March of this year, planning our program for the next four years was showing that we would not be able to sustain the current level of staffing into future years. We took the difficult decision to reduce our complement of staff by twelve per cent. As a result, we have had to combine some of our functions, such as research and notifications, and our capacity is less than before in all teams including investigation, technical analysis and research and publication.

The decision to reduce our staff numbers was particularly difficult as it was made in the knowledge that there is no contingent workforce of highly skilled transport safety investigators available in the marketplace to be deployed at short notice in the event of a new crisis. It was indeed sobering to see more than 200 years of combined corporate and investigation experience leaving the ATSB.

In March, at the same time as we were required to undertake difficult decisions in relation to our staffing and resources, we received the news of the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) and of its possible location in the Southern Indian Ocean, in Australia’s Search and Rescue Zone.

The ATSB became part of a whole of government response and worked closely with the Joint Agency Coordination Centre that was set up under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal (Retired) Angus Houston. We also worked closely with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and other government agencies such as the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade together with our Malaysian counterparts.

Our subsequent involvement in leading the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has presented us with our greatest challenge yet. This is the most serious aviation occurrence ever to involve the ATSB and its precursors, and is arguably the most mystifying, expansive and difficult search operation ever undertaken in the history of commercial aircraft. Since then, in July 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was apparently brought down by a missile over the Ukraine with a significant number of Australian citizens and residents on board. The ATSB deployed two investigators to the Ukraine to work in support of the Dutch Safety Board-led Annex 13 safety investigation into the occurrence. The ATSB will continue to provide support to investigation activities associated with the MH17 tragedy.

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