The Grenfell Tower disaster has highlighted the difference between aviation accident investigation and the investigation of other accidents. In aviation, an independent body (the AAIB in UK, NTSB in the USA) carries out a thorough investigation to determine the causes of the accident. They issue a report in the public domain and this includes recommendations to make sure it never happens again. The regulator responds to these recommendations and changes the regulations accordingly. Hence we have an ever-increasing level of safety so that aviation is now the safest form of transport.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about a search for the guilty. That’s because it doesn’t happen in aviation. People are devastated by tragedy and angry but the investigation is independent of that. The reason is because the causes of a major accident are always complex and interlinked. No one involved tries to be negligent, incompetent or stupid so looking for the smoking gun simply fuels anger and the desire to blame someone for a series of events that should never have happened but did. The search for the guilty is fuelled only by the media whose interest is in a juicy story to sell more newspapers. If there has been negligence or foul play, this comes out in the report but…and here’s the main point…in my recollection, no one is ever prosecuted for an aviation accident. That is because there are no judges, lawyers or solicitors involved in the process. The investigation is carried out by professional engineers who know what they’re doing, not by legal eagles looking to make political capital or a fat pay cheque.
Therefore stop looking to blame someone and make sure that this dreadful event is the last of its kind.