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Civil aviation accidents and incidents

Civil aviation accidents and incidents



Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 — investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation


  • It aims to improve aviation safety by ensuring a high level of efficiency, expediency, and quality of European Union (EU) civil aviation safety investigations.
  • It lays down rules concerning the timely availability of information relating to all persons and dangerous goods on board an aircraft involved in an accident.
  • It also aims to improve the assistance to victims of air accidents and their relatives.



  • This regulation applies to safety investigations into accidents* and serious incidents*:
    • that occur in the territories of EU Member States;
    • that occur outside the territories of Member States but involve aircraft registered in a Member State or operated by a company established in a Member State;
    • in which a Member State is entitled (according to international standards and recommended practices) to appoint an accredited representative to participate in the investigation;
    • in which a Member State — having special interest by virtue of fatalities or serious injuries to its citizens — is permitted by the country conducting the investigation to appoint an expert.
  • The regulation does not apply to safety investigations into accidents and serious incidents that involve aircraft engaged in military, customs, police or similar services.

Independent safety investigation authorities

  • Each Member State must ensure that safety investigations into civil aviation accidents and serious incidents are conducted, without external interference, by a permanent national civil aviation safety investigation authority (SIA).
  • Each SIA must be functionally independent from any authority or any other party that could be in conflict with its tasks or influence its objectivity.
  • Each SIA must be capable of independently conducting a full safety investigation. Member States must provide their respective SIAs with the means and finances — including a budget — to carry out their responsibilities independently and have access to sufficient resources.
  • In particular, the SIA must have at its disposal qualified personnel and adequate facilities including offices and hangars to store and examine the aircraft, its contents and the wreckage.

Obligation to investigate

  • Every accident or serious incident to which Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 (see summary) applies shall be the subject of a safety investigation in the Member State in which the accident or serious incident occurred.
  • Where an aircraft to which Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 applies and that is registered in a Member State is involved in an accident or a serious incident the location of which cannot be definitely established as being in the territory of any state, a safety investigation shall be conducted by the safety investigation authority of the Member State of registration.
  • SIAs may decide to investigate incidents other than the ones described in the above paragraphs, along with accidents and serious incidents to other types of aircraft, in accordance with the national legislation of the Member States, when they expect to draw safety lessons from them.
  • Where no person has been fatally or seriously injured, the responsible SIA may decide, taking into account the expected lessons to be drawn for the improvement of aviation safety, not to initiate a safety investigation on a regulated number of cases that are included in Article 135 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 replacing Article 5 of Regulation (EU) No 996/2010.
  • In no event may safety investigations be concerned with apportioning blame or liability. They must be independent of, separate from and without prejudice to any judicial or administrative proceedings to apportion blame or liability.

Cooperation between safety investigation authorities

The regulation allows for cooperation between SIAs and for the possibility of delegating tasks.

European network of civil aviation safety investigation authorities

Member States must ensure that their SIAs establish a European network of civil aviation safety investigation authorities (Encasia) among themselves to:

  • further improve the quality of the investigations conducted by SIAs and strengthen their independence;
  • encourage high standards in investigation methods and investigator training.


  • Notwithstanding any judicial investigation, the investigator-in-charge has the authority to take the necessary measures to satisfy the requirements of the safety investigation. Among other things, the investigator is entitled to:
    • have immediate unrestricted and unhampered access to the accident or incident site as well as to the aircraft, its contents or wreckage;
    • require that evidence be collected and debris or components removed for analysis;
    • request autopsies and the medical examination of the people involved in the operation of the aircraft;
    • call witnesses and require them to give evidence.
  • The Member State in the territory of which an accident or serious incident occurred is responsible for ensuring safe treatment and protection of all evidence.

Coordination with other authorities

  • Member States must ensure that SIAs and other authorities (e.g. judicial, civil aviation, search and rescue involved in the safety investigation) cooperate with each other via advanced arrangements, providing that those arrangements do not compromise SIAs’ independence.
  • Member States must communicate these arrangements to the European Commission, which has to transmit them to the Encasia Chairman, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Confidentiality and appropriate use of information

  • The regulation establishes a list of records that must not be made available or used for purposes other than safety investigation (e.g. flight data recorder data, draft reports, identity of persons who have given evidence, notes of investigators).
  • Rules in the regulation on the confidential use of information, including information such as serial and registration numbers, which directly identify aircraft subject to an occurrence report, are amended by Regulation (EU) No 376/2014. The regulation also recognises that the administration of justice or the competent authority may decide to disclose records according to national law. Member States may decide to limit the cases in which such a decision of disclosure may be taken, while respecting EU legal acts.

Assistance for victims and relatives

  • Member States must each put in place a national civil aviation accident emergency plan with provisions for assistance to victims of accidents and their relatives. They must also ensure that airlines have their own plan to help victims and their relatives, taking particular account of psychological support.
  • Member States should also encourage non-EU airlines operating within the EU to adopt a similar plan.
  • Each Member State concerned by an accident must appoint a person as a point of contact and information for victims and relatives.
  • Airlines must offer travelers the opportunity to provide the contact details of a person who is to be notified in the event of an accident. The name of a person on board must not be made public before the relatives of that person have been informed.

Report and safety recommendations

  • During the investigation, the safety authority will recommend any prompt action it considers necessary for the improvement of aviation safety to:
    • persons responsible for aircraft or aircraft equipment manufacture;
    • persons responsible for aircraft or aircraft equipment maintenance;
    • aircraft operators; and
    • persons responsible for personnel training.
  • The investigation concludes with a report containing safety recommendations after final consultations with the authorities concerned, including the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. The final report will be published in the shortest possible time, if possible within 12 months of the date of accident or incident. The authority will also record responses to its recommendations.
  • Each party receiving a safety recommendation, including the safety authorities at national and EU level, must also monitor the progress of the action taken in response to the safety recommendations received.
  • There is legitimate interest in giving public access to all safety recommendations and their responses because of the overarching purpose of Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 and of Regulation (EU) No 376/2014 to reduce the number of accidents and to promote the dissemination of findings of safety-related incidents. As such, Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/1128 regulates the access rights to safety recommendations and responses stored in the European central repository.


It has applied since 2 December 2010.


For more information, see:


Accident. An occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft where any person suffers death or serious injury, the aircraft receives substantial damage, or the aircraft is missing or completely inaccessible. In the case of a manned aircraft, the occurrence takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of traveling and all such persons have disembarked. In the case of an unmanned aircraft, the occurrence takes place between the time the aircraft is ready to move with the purpose of flight until such time it comes to rest at the end of the flight and the primary propulsion system is shut down.
Incident. An occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of operations.


Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation and repealing Directive 94/56/EC (OJ L 295, 12.11.2010, pp. 35–50).

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Regulation (EU) No 376/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences in civil aviation, amending Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Directive 2003/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Regulations (EC) No 1321/2007 and (EC) No 1330/2007 (OJ L 122, 24.4.2014, pp. 18–43).

See consolidated version.

last update 18.10.2021