Failure Analysis in Support of Aircraft Accident Investigations 2000-01-2102
The analysis of structural and electronic components involved in an aircraft mishap often requires the application of unique investigative methods. While a thorough application of basic failure analysis procedures must be utilized, traditional failure analysis methodology is often augmented by techniques developed to establish information about the aircraft system operation prior to the mishap. High-speed ground impact, fire, secondary damage and the loss of components during an accident greatly hinder component failure analysis efforts and root cause determination. Careful evaluation of unfailed components can often give accident investigators the information needed to fill in gaps and determine the mishap sequence or cause. In some instances overlooked damage on unfailed components has led to incorrect declaration of cause. Development of such data provides accident investigators with a sound technical foundation from which to draw conclusions and make corrective actions.
Review of design, manufacturing, and maintenance processes is often the key means of accurately determining the root cause of mishaps. Subsequent to determination of component failure cause, corrective actions and development of field inspection methods are often imperative to preventing accident recurrence.
Examples from several analyses of both military and commercial accident hardware are presented. The requirements of post-accident aircraft component failure analysis are emphasized along with the corrective actions developed and implemented to prevent future failure.