Current Affairs
See how investigations into plane accidents are carried out in Malta

The Bureau of Air Accident Investigations carries out more investigations than we might think. There are an average of around five different situations every day which require a detailed investigation. Apart from this, the BAAI has investigated seven incidents which took place in Malta’s air space. Some of these required tests and scientific analysis on material and parts of the plane which had given way.

A bolt of a plane, which gave way during a flight, is brought here at the laboratory within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Malta, to establish why and how this happened. The bolt is placed in a special machine, a vacuum is created and the scientist gradually enlarges the image so see it in more detail on a screen. From this visual, it is clear that the bolt has been damaged because it could not take the stress during the flight.

Professor David Zammit Mangion is the Director of the Institute for Aerospatial Technologies at the University of Malta. Prof Zammit explained that “we can make an analysis of the object’s chemicals, to see if and whether it is specified and perhaps discovered why it has failed”.

In the case of the bolt,  nothing serious was found which may have led to a tragedy. However, as Captain Frank Zammit points out, as an authority,  the BAAI has the duty to investigate even the slightest incident – including those we do not hear about, in order to take corrective measures for the future.

This year,  the BAAI investigated seven accidents of this type.  This all involved small planes and none were passenger planes. Captain Zammit said that “it could be a result of bird strikes or system failures. If more than one system fails that is a serious incident so we have to investigate.”

At the same time, the BAAI has an average of five reports daily about other situations which can also cause accidents, and they therefore require their full attention. Frank Zammit said that “for example, if there is a pothole on a runway, we need to investigate way. If there are foreign objects or missing lights on a runway, things like, all have to be investigated.”

Captain Frank Zammit told tvm.com.mt that the investigations carried out by the BAAI remain confidential and are only used to strengthen the security system and not to take any criminal action against anyone. That kind of investigation would be carried out by the competent authorities if the need arises.

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