Will Brexit have a significant impact on civil aircraft accident investigation? Probably not but it will not make it easier and there are some pitfalls.
Cooperation between independent National accident investigation bodies has been a part of their make up for a long time. The international framework is dominated by ICAO Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention. At its core these standards and recommended practices are stable, well used and gets an update about every decade. In the UK, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigates civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents.
In the EU, the applicable law is Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 – Investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation. Before this Regulation came into being a Directive 94/56/EC encouraged investigators to work together and apply the standards of Annex 13.
To some extent EU Regulation 996/2010 was forged because of the need to define in law the relationship between the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the 28 independent investigation bodies in the EU. The first Basic Regulation, that launched EASA had little to say on how the bodies should work together.
There’s a strong need for EASA, National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) and Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authorities (as they are defined in the Regulation) to work together.
It becomes essential to be able to share confidential and sensitive information when accidents and incidents happen. Corrective action often needs to be taken quickly. It is the EASA and NAAs with industry who must take that action. A sound legal framework helps to ensure that information flows and responsibilities are clear.
Post March 31, 2019 the above Regulation will cease to be directly applicable. Naturally, the affected parties could choose to continue to apply its provisions. Even in the worst case “no-deal” scenario it would be unthinkable that an arrangement to share confidential and sensitive information wouldn’t be worked out.
In addition, here’s several areas where attention may be needed.
The Regulation sets-up a European Network of Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authorities. Will UK AAIB continue to participate in that network?
EASA sets standards and approves Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR) and Flight Data Recorders (FDR). Will UK AAIB be consulted on the amendments to standards?
Will the status of UK Investigation Reports and Safety Recommendations remain the same?
 AAIB is a branch of the Department for Transport.