The core of NTSB
investigations. The Go Team's purpose is to begin the investigation
of a major accident
on-scene as quickly as possible. Between three and twelve specialist
s from the NTSB's Washington, D.C.
headquarters respond to the scene of an accident, traveling by commercial airline
r or government aircraft. Assigned on a rotating basis, they also handle investigations of rail
and pipeline accidents. While on duty, team members are on call
24 hours a day. They cannot pack ahead because accidents can be in a variety of locations (Florida and Alaska require entirely different items), but they always have the tools of their trade available. All carry flashlights, tape recorder
s, cameras, and extra tape and film.
For aviation incidents, the team breakdown is usually as follows:
- Investigator-in-Charge: A senior investigator with years of NTSB and industry experience.
- Operations Specialist: Examines the history of the accident flight, and crew members' duties for as many days prior to the crash as is relevant.
- Structures Specialist: Documents the wreckage and accident scene, including impact angles to determine pre-impact course.
- Powerplants Specialist: Examines engines, propellers, and engine accessories.
- Systems Specialist: Studies components of the plane's systems, instruments, and elements of the flight control system.
- Air Traffic Control Specialist: Responsible for reconstruction of the radar data and transcripts of controller/pilot radio communications.
- Weather Specialist: Works with the National Weather Service and sometimes local TV stations to determine meteorological conditions for a large area around the accident.
- Human Performance Specialist: Studies crew performance and all human error-related factors, including fatigue, medication, drugs/alcohol, workload, and training.
- Survival Factors Specialist: Documents impact forces and injuries, evacuation, community emergency planning and all rescue efforts.
While an investigation is in progress on-scene, a member of the NTSB accompanying the investigative team acts as the primary spokesperson and briefs the media on the latest developments. Only confirmed factual information is released. Under the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996, family affairs specialists also assist at major accidents. The team remains on-scene for as long as necessary, sometimes for a few days or a few weeks. After that, work continues at the headquarters facility and a report is drafted for the NTSB 12-18 months after the accident.
When an accident occurs outside U.S. territory or not in international waters, the investigator is the government in whose territory the accident occurs. If a U.S. carrier or U.S.-manufactured equipment is involved, an accredited representative from the NTSB's staff is sent to assist.