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Aircraft Accident and Incident Reporting

All aircraft accidents must be reported to the nearest National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Field Office. An understanding of the definition of accident may save you from reporting something that is not required. Once you have determined that you are required to report the situation, you must report it immediately to the nearest NTSB office. You do not report it to the FAA.

49 CFR §830.2 provides definitions for aircraft accident, serious injury and substantial damage as follows:

Aircraft accident means an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage.

So the key to this definition is knowing what is meant by a “serious injury and “substantial damage”.

Serious injury means any injury which:

    (1) Requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within 7 days from the date of the injury was received;

    (2) results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes, or nose);

    (3) causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage;

    (4) involves any internal organ; or

    (5) involves second or third degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface.

Substantial damage means 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.

The following are NOT considered “substantial damage”:

    • Engine failure 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, and

    • damage to landing gear, wheels, tires, flaps, engine accessories, brakes, or wingtips.

In addition to report all aircraft accidents, the following aircraft incidents must be reported to NTSB:

    (a) Flight control system malfunction or failure.

    (b) Inability of any required flight crew member to perform their normal flight duties as a result of injury or illness.

    (c) Failure of structural components of a turbine engine excluding compressor and turbine blades and vanes.

    (d) Inflight fire.

    (e) Aircraft collide in flight.

    (f) 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 total loss, whichever is less.

    (g) For large multi-engine aircraft (more than 
    12,500 pounds maximum certificated takeoff weight):

      (1) Inflight failure of electrical systems which requires the sustained use of an emergency bus powered by a back-up source such as a battery, auxiliary power unit, or air-driven generator to retain flight control or essential instruments;

      (2) Inflight failure of hydraulic systems that results in sustained reliance on the sole remaining hydraulic or mechanical system for movement of flight control surfaces;

      (3) Sustained loss of the power or thrust produced by two or more engines; and

      (4) An evacuation of aircraft in which an emergency egress system is utilized.

In addition, an aircraft is overdue and is believed to have been involved in an accident.

Information to be given in notification. (14CFR §830.6)

The notification required in § 830.5 shall contain the following information, if available:

    (a) Type, nationality, and registration marks of the aircraft;

    (b) Name of owner, and operator of the aircraft;

    (c) Name of the pilot-in-command;

    (d) Date and time of the accident;

    (e) Last point of departure and point of intended landing of the aircraft;

    (f) Position of the aircraft with reference to some easily defined geographical point;

    (g) Number of persons aboard, number killed, and number seriously injured;

    (h) Nature of the accident, the weather and the extent of damage to the aircraft, so far as is known; and

    (i) A description of any explosives, radioactive materials, or other dangerous articles carried.


NTSB Accident Reporting Regulations (49 CFR §830)


NTSB Website – “Reporting an Accident to the NTSB”


NTSB Website


AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual) See Chapter 7, Section 6


NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System


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