National Transportation Safety Board Regulations

National Transportation Safety Board Seal


  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the FAA organization responsible for investigating accidents to find the causal factors to prevent them from occurring in the future
  • Following a defined event, the NTSB takes interest
  • The aviation community requires notifications and reports to know when to get involved
  • The investigation archive is an excellent source for lessons learned and case studies:
  • As a first responder, be aware of preservation requirements

Role Of The NTSB:

  • The role of the NTSB is to determine probable cause and issue safety recommendations to help prevent similar accidents from occuring in the future

Role Of The FAA:

  • The FAA has the statuatory right to be a party to all NTSB investigations when warranted
  • Their role is to investigate safety related issues over which it has authority
  • While the NTSB retains control of the investigation, the FAA may be called to assist


  • Accident:

    • Any person suffers death or serious injury or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage
    • The operator of the aircraft must file an accident report within ten days or seven days if overdue aircraft is still missing
  • Incident:

    • An occurrence other than an accident that affects or could affect the safety of operations
    • The operator of the aircraft is required to submit a report to the nearest NTSB field office when requested
  • Operator:

    • Any person who causes or authorizes the operation of an aircraft
    • Ex: owner, lessee of an aircraft
  • Substantial Damage:

    • Damage or failure that adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft and would usually require significant repair or replacement
    • 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
      • Damage to landing gear, wheels, tires, flaps, engine accessories, brakes, or wingtips

Immediate Notification:

  • Any aircraft involved in an accident requires an immediate notification be submitted
  • Any of the following incidents:
    • Flight control system malfunction or failure
    • The inability of a required crew-member to perform normal duties
    • Failure of structural components of a turbine engine excluding compressor and turbine blades and vanes
    • In-flight fire
    • Aircraft collide 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 total loss, whichever is less
    • For large multi-engine aircraft (more than 12,500 pounds maximum certificated takeoff weight):
      • 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;
      • Inflight failure of hydraulic systems that results 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; and
      • An evacuation of aircraft in which an emergency egress system is utilized
    • An overdue aircraft believed to be involved in an accident

Manner of Notification:

  • The most expeditious method of notification to the NTSB by the operator will be determined by the circumstances existing at that time. The NTSB has advised that any of the following would be considered examples of the type of notification that would be acceptable:
    • Direct telephone notification
    • Telegraphic notification
    • Notification to the FAA who would in turn notify the NTSB by direct communication; i.e., dispatch or telephone

Items to be Included in Notification:

  • The notification required above must contain the following information, if available:
    • Type, nationality, and registration marks of the aircraft
    • Name of owner and operator of the aircraft
    • Name of the pilot-in-command
    • Date and time of the accident, or incident
    • Last point of departure, and point of intended landing of the aircraft
    • Position of the aircraft with reference to some easily defined geographical point
    • Number of persons aboard, number killed, and number seriously injured
    • Nature of the accident, or incident, the weather, and the extent of damage to the aircraft so far as is known; and
    • A description of any explosives, radioactive materials, or other dangerous articles carried

Follow-up Reports:

  • The operator must file a report on NTSB Form 6120.1 or 6120.2, available from NTSB Field Offices or from the NTSB, Washington, DC, 20594:
    • Within 10 days after an accident;
    • When, after 7 days, an overdue aircraft is still missing;
    • A report on an incident for which notification is required as described in subparagraph a(1) must be filed only as requested by an authorized representative of the NTSB
  • Each crewmember, if physically able at the time the report is submitted, must attach a statement setting forth the facts, conditions, and circumstances relating to the accident or incident as they appeared. If the crewmember is incapacitated, a statement must be submitted as soon as physically possible

Where to File the Reports:

  • The operator of an aircraft must file with the NTSB Field Office nearest the accident or incident any report required by this section
  • The NTSB Field Offices are listed under U.S. Government in the telephone directories in the following cities: Anchorage, AK; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Fort Worth, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Parsippany, NJ; Seattle, WA


  • The site must be preserved, and therefore nothing moved, for investigators to see things as they impacted
  • Exceptions include:
    • Protecting mail
    • Protecting cargo
    • Protecting documents

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Accident Reporting:

  • FAA Reporting:

    • No later than 10 calendar days after an operation that meets the criteria listed below, a remote pilot in command must report to the FAA, to the Administrator, any operation of the small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) involving at least:
      • Serious injury (as defined in Advisory Circular 107-2) to any person or any loss of consciousness; or
      • Damage to any property, other than the small unmanned aircraft, unless one of the following conditions is satisfied:
        • The cost of repair (including materials and labor) does not exceed $500; or
        • The fair market value of the property does not exceed $500 in the event of total loss
  • NTSB Reporting:

    • National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Reporting. In addition to the report submitted to the ROC, and in accordance with the criteria established by the NTSB, certain sUAS accidents must also be reported to the NTSB. For more information, visit
  • Submitting sUAS Accident Reports:

    • The report may be submitted to the appropriate FAA Regional Operations Center (ROC) electronically ( or by telephone (
      • Reports may also be made to the nearest jurisdictional FSDO (
    • The report should include the following information:
      1. sUAS remote PIC's name and contact information;
      2. sUAS remote PIC's FAA airman certificate number;
      3. sUAS registration number issued to the aircraft, if required (FAA registration number);
      4. Location of the accident;
      5. Date of the accident;
      6. Time of the accident;
      7. Person(s) injured and extent of injury, if any or known;
      8. Property damaged and extent of damage, if any or known; and
      9. Description of what happened


  • To date, the NTSB has issued over 13,000 safety recommendations to more than 2,500 recipients
  • Because the NTSB has no formal authority to regulate the transportation industry, its effectiveness depends on its reputation for conducting thorough, accurate, and independent investigations and for producing timely, well-considered recommendations to enhance transportation safety
  • The NTSB Aviation Database is an incredibly useful tool for pilots to learn from others mistakes
    • Consider reviewing NTSB reports by your aircraft type, your operation, and by airport
  • Note that accident reporting requirements can apply to UAS, triggering NTSB involvement
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