NTSB is an independent agency assigned to determine probable cause of
transportation accidents (Rodrigues & Curisk, 2011).
Just like any independent agency, funding can be an issue and the NTSB is not
exempted. With only a strength of about 400 employees, it is quite a daunting
task to investigate civil aviation accidents and other types of transportation
accidents. Although the NTSB does have a high level of skillset on the
investigative experience, the NTSB enlist the help of other organizations or
referred as “parties”. According to Wood & Sweginnes (2006), the NTSB has
neither the manpower nor the resources to completely carry out a full
investigation on a large accident without the help from the industry.
The party system enables the NTSB to leverage its limited resource and
manpower by involving the relevant technical experts of the industry. These
experts are individuals who might be able to provide specialized knowledge to
assist in finding out the probable cause of accident (Rodrigues & Curisk,
The party process involves organizations such as
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) –
The ICAO sets the ground rules for how investigations will be performed as per
ICAO annex 13, although the ICAO rarely has physical participation in the
Investigator-in-Charge – The person whose is
responsible for conducting/supervising the investigation
Local law enforcement – Responsible for the safety
and protection of the general public within their jurisdiction. They may act as
security around a crash scene but also have a certain hand in the investigation
as to ensure that it was indeed an accident and not a criminal act.
Safety and Health Association (OSHA) – If the accident is considered to be
“workplace-related” then OSHA may become involved
Protection Agency (EPA) – When any HAZMAT spill occurs as a result of the accident
then the EPA may be involved
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – If the
accident is determined to be from sabotage, terrorism or any other intentional
act then the FBI will be a part of the investigation.
provide specialized knowledge in helping determine the probable cause of the
Limits and specifications
One of the party process
limitations are the stipulations with being a party member.
Each party representative must work under the
direction of the IIC
At no phase of the investigation any member of the
news media, lawyers or insurance personnel are permitted to participate
Victims or family members of are prohibited from
serving as party member.
the limited resources and number of personnel the NTSB has, the team members
are expected to remain focus on the finding the causes of accidents and not
assigning blames to anyone. By utilizing experts from the outside organizations,
the NTSB creates a much more inclusive atmosphere for all stakeholders
involved. Every member is required to sign a mandatory 14-page document
dictating the duties and responsibilities during the investigative process.
Failure to abide rules such as releasing investigative information to the media
will result removal from the party. Parties who are reluctant to participate
due to potential liabilities usually do so since the relevant information will
likely emerge eventually (Fielding, Lo, & Yang, 2010).