49 CFR 830 details the requirements for initial notification of aircraft incidents and accidents to the NTSB. This regulation also details the specifics to determine the type of damages and injuries that may occur and the requirements for each.
The NTSB lists a few key terms and phrases regarding aircraft accidents that a pilot should be familiar with to understand what type of report is required and within what time frame.
Aircraft Accident: An aircraft accident is any accident that occurs between the time people have boarded the aircraft to the time everyone has de-boarded the aircraft. During this time period, the persons on board must have the intention of flight, and one of the following must be true:
- Any person suffers death or serious injury
- The aircraft receives substantial damage
The definition of an aircraft accident also applies to the definition of an "Unmanned Aircraft Accident."
Incident: Any occurrence other than an accident associated with an aircraft's operation, which affects or could affect the safety operations.
Serious Injury: Any injury which results in at least one of the following:
- Requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours and commences within seven days from the date the injury occurred.
- Results in a fracture of any bone (Does not apply to simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose).
- Causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage.
- Involves any internal organ
- Involves second or third-degree burns or results in any type of burn affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface.
Fatal Injury: Any injury which results in death within 30 days of the accident.
Substantial Damage: Any damage or failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft and which would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component.
However, the following are not considered substantial damage:
- Engine failures or damage limited to an engine if only one engine fails or is damaged.
- Bent fairings or cowling.
- Dented skin.
- Small punctured holes in the skin or fabric.
- Ground damage to rotor or propeller blades.
- Damage to landing gear, wheels, tires, flaps, engine accessories, brakes, or wingtips.
Unmanned Aircraft Accident: An occurrence associated with the operation of any public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated after its mission that has at least one of the following occur:
- Any person suffers death or serious injury.
- The aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 300 pounds or greats and sustains substantial damage.
The operator of an aircraft must immediately, and by the most expeditious means available, notify the nearest National Transportation Board Office (NTSB) if an aircraft accident of any of the following serious incidents occurs:
- A flight control system malfunction or failure
- A require crewmember is unable to perform normal flight duties as a result of an injury or illness.
- A failure of any internal turbine engine component that results in the escape of debris other than out the exhaust path.
- An in-flight fire
- An aircraft collision in flight
- Damage to property other than the aircraft estimated to exceed $25,000 for repair (including materials and labor) or fair market value in the event of a total loss, whichever is less.
- Release of all or a portion of a propeller blade from an aircraft. (Does not include releases caused solely by ground contact, i.e., prop strike.)
- A complete loss of information, excluding flickering, from more than 50 percent of an aircraft's cockpit displays that are known as either: An Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS), An Engine Indication and Crew Alerting System (EICAS), An Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor (ECAM) display, and other displays which generally include: A Primary Flight Display (PFD), A Primary Navigation Display (PND), and other integrated displays.
- An Airborne Collision and Avoidance System (ACAS) resolution advisory is issued when an aircraft is being operated on an IFR flight plan, and compliance with the advisory is necessary to avert a substantial risk of collision between two or more aircraft.
- Damage to helicopter tail or main rotor blades, including ground damage, that requires major repair or replacement of the blades.
- Any event in which an operator, when operating an airplane as an air carrier at a public-use airport on land lands or departs on a taxiway, incorrect runway, or another area not designed as a runway, or experiences a runway incursion that requires the operator or the crew of another aircraft or vehicle to take immediate corrective action to avoid a collision.
- An aircraft is overdue and is believed to have been involved in an accident.
For large (more than 12,500lbs maximum certificated takeoff weight), multiengine aircraft:
- In-flight failure of electrical systems which requires the sustained use of an emergency bus powered by a back-up source such as a better, auxiliary power unit, or air-driven generator to retain flight control or essential instrument.
- In-flight failure of hydraulic systems that result in sustained reliance on the sole remaining hydraulic or mechanical system for movement of flight control surfaces.
- Sustained loss of the power or thrust produced by two or more engines.
- An evacuation of an aircraft in which an emergency egress system is utilized.
Information Required To Be Given In An Immediate Notification
When notifying the NTSB, the following information must be given at the time of notification:
- The type, nationality, and registration marks of the aircraft.
- The name of the owner and operator of the aircraft.
- The name of the pilot-in-command.
- The date and time of the accident.
- Last point of departure and point of intended landing of the aircraft.
- Position of the aircraft with reference to some easily defined geographical point.
- The number of persons aboard, as well as the number of individuals killed, and the number of individuals seriously injured.
- The nature of the accident, the weather, and the extent of damage to the aircraft, so far as is known.
- A description of any explosives, radioactive materials, or other dangerous articles carried.
Preservation Of Aircraft Wreckages
Aircraft accidents that require notification to the NTSB place the responsibility of preserving the aircraft wreckage, cargo, and mail aboard the aircraft to the accident aircraft operator.
The operator must also preserve all records such as recording mediums of the flight, maintenance, and voice recorders pertaining to the aircraft's operation and maintenance until the NTSB takes custody of the records or a release is granted pursuant to 831.12(b).
Until the NTSB or an authorized representative takes custody of the accident, any aircraft wreckage, mail, or cargo may not be disturbed or moved except to the extent necessary:
- To remove persons injured or trapped.
- To protect the wreckage from further damage.
- To protect the public from injury.
If the aircraft wreckage, mail, or cargo is required to be moved, then sketches, descriptive notes, and photographs shall be made, if possible, of the original positions and condition of the wreckage as well as any significant impact marks.
The involved aircraft operator must retain all records, reports, internal documents, and memoranda dealing with the accident or incident until authorized by the NTSB to the contrary.
Crewmember Reports and Statements
The operator of a civil, public, or foreign aircraft must file a report on Board From 6120. 1/2 (OMB No. 3147-0001) within ten days after an accident, or after seven days if an overdue aircraft is still missing. Forms are available from the NTSB headquarters in Washington, DC, and from the FAA FSDO. The operator must file any report with the NTSB field office nearest to the accident or incident.
A report on an incident for which immediate notification is required shall be filed only as requested by an authorized representative of the board.
Crewmember Statement: Each crewmember, if physically able at the time the report is submitted, shall attach a statement setting forth the facts, conditions, and circumstances relating to the accident or incident as they appear to them. If a crewmember is incapacitated, they must submit a statement as soon as they are physically able to.