The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is responsible for the investigation of civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK and its overseas territories.
Investigations carried out by the AAIB fall into two categories: Occurrences where a person has suffered a fatal or serious injury, or the aircraft has sustained damage or structural failure which has affected its performance, which are termed as 'accidents', and events where an accident has nearly occurred but has been averted, which are termed as a 'serious incidents'. Both occurrences will be investigated by the AAIB
The AAIB – which is part of the Department for Transport - is called upon to investigate some 300 accidents or 'serious incidents' each year, involving anything from a small privately operated aircraft to a large commercial airliner. Of these around 20 events will involve the transport of complete aircraft to its facilities, followed up by a detailed investigation process.
The organisation is based at a site adjoining Farnborough Airport in Hampshire where two large aircraft hangers and a storage compound are used to house damaged aircraft and aircraft parts which are recovered from the scene of a mishap.
All investigations undertaken at the Farnborough facility involve AAIB staff in a painstaking process of inspecting and testing a plane's component parts for clues to the cause of an incident.
"All parts have to be carefully examined," says AAIB's engineering support manager, Sid Hawkins. "The aim of an investigation is to improve aviation safety by determining the causes of air accidents and serious incidents and making safety recommendations intended to prevent recurrence. It is not our job to apportion blame or liability.'
To ensure that aircraft parts are handled safely and efficiently throughout its site, the AAIB has recently taken delivery of a new 4-wheel counterbalanced truck from Jungheinrich's EFG 3-Series range.
The electric powered truck features fourth generation AC technology which, Jungheinrich say, offers a level of performance that is comparable to that achieved by an IC engine-powered truck.
The truck is used to load and unload aircraft from transport vehicles, and to lift aircraft or structures on to specially designed support stations where AAIB's investigation staff can access them safely and effectively.
Given the awkward shape and weight of some of the loads that are transported around the AAIB site – parts are transported on metal pallets or lifted with slings – it was important that the truck offers a high degree of safety. Jungheinrich's EFG series has been designed with the counterweight underneath the operator's seating position. By lowering the counterweight and positioning it further forward, Jungheinrich's engineers have effectively changed the truck's centre of gravity. In doing so they have made the trucks inherently stable - without the need for additional electronic stability systems - which as many truck users have found to their cost, need regularly servicing.
The impressive stability of the EFG 316-320 is further enhanced by the truck's high mounted steer axle.
"This new truck plays an essential role in ensuring that we are able to carry out our investigations safely and efficiently," says Sid Hawkins.