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Air accident investigator

Air accident investigators search for the causes of accidents and serious incidents, involving civilian aircraft.

Annual Salary

£72,500 to £82,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 45 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; on call

2.9%
Future employment

There will be 2.9% more Air accident investigator jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

Depending on your role you could:

  • co-ordinate a team to respond to an incident
  • gather and record evidence to build a picture of what happened
  • speak sensitively and tactfully with victims, witnesses and bereaved relatives
  • reassemble or dismantle wreckage to look for clues
  • recover data from flight recorders and instruments
  • use drones to survey accident sites
  • piece together events that led to an accident
  • manage the different stages of an investigation
  • update relatives on progress, especially in fatal accidents
  • write accident reports
  • make safety recommendations to regulators and the industry
  • act as an expert witness at inquests and official inquiries

Working environment

You may need to wear protective clothing.

You could work in remote rural areas, in an aircraft hangar, in a laboratory or in an office.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding and you'll travel often.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • applying directly
University

You'll usually need a degree or postgraduate qualification in engineering or a related subject. Courses include:

  • aerospace engineering
  • aeronautical engineering
  • electrical or electronic engineering
  • mechanical engineering
  • physics
  • mathematics

You may be able to do a postgraduate course in safety and accident investigation, which covers air transport.

Some investigator roles look at the part played by human factors in an incident, and a degree and postgraduate qualification in psychology would be useful for these.

As well as a university qualification, you'll need several years experience of working in aircraft engineering.

A pilot's licence may also be required for some jobs, like an air accident operations inspector.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including maths
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information
Direct application

You can apply directly to become an air accident investigator.

If you want to work as an operations inspector, managing an accident response team, you’ll need a pilot’s licence and flying experience.

To be an engineering investigator or flight data recorder inspector, you’ll need a relevant degree or postgraduate qualification and several years’ recent experience in aerospace engineering.

You can also take short courses in accident investigation techniques, which may help broaden your knowledge of the role and skills required.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

More information

Further information

You can find out more about how to become an investigator from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

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If you work as an engineering or flight data recorder investigator, you could become an operations director, co-ordinating the investigation process. You could also progress to chief accident inspector.

You could use your experience to work as a consultant with aerospace manufacturers, safety regulators or aviation industry insurance companies.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of manufacturing production and processes
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • analytical thinking skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • persistence and determination
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
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