by Staff Sgt. Kali Gradishar
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/6/2011 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Thirteen individuals from various locations, along with three Spangdahlem Airmen aiding with administrative tasks, convened at Spangdahlem Air Base April 5 to form a Safety Investigation Board tasked with investigating the A-10 Thunderbolt II crash that occurred April 1 in a field outside Laufeld, Germany, a town north of Wittlich.
The team, led by 100th Air Refueling Wing Vice Commander, Col. Michael Winters, SIB president, will take investigative control of the crash site and begin the board's inquiry into the cause of the crash. The team is comprised of two representatives from the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., 10 Airmen from various Air Force installations, and one member of the German Air Force.
"The Safety Investigation Board is appointed by the convening authority and relieves the ISB to carry out further investigatory duties. The SIB distills the information discovered by the ISB and formulates a report of findings ... and recommends actionable items, to include faulty parts or procedures, to prevent another mishap," Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Winfield, 52nd Fighter Wing ground safety manager, explained.
An Interim Safety Board preserved and secured evidence of the crash prior to the arrival of the SIB.
The SIB will receive a hand-off briefed from the ISB regarding actions already accomplished in securing evidence. The SIB will then commence the investigation process, and the ISB will be released.
"A Safety Investigation Board is a team of safety-trained professionals, and their role is essentially to look at what happened and figure out how we can make sure it doesn't happen again," Maj. Nathan Maertens, 52nd FW Safety Office director of operations, said. "The members of the board come from different locations because we don't want to take a chance of there being any conflict of interest (and to mitigate) anybody tainting the evidence.
"We want it to be as honest as possible (and ensure) no one has a vested interest beyond safety," he said. There is also a German Air Force representative on the team to improve both nations' safety programs, expand relations between the two services, and to promote collaboration in terms of safety and many other aspects.
The SIB will conduct a thorough investigation, working with various entities throughout the base and the region, to get a clear picture of what occurred.
"Wherever the investigation leads them to consider something, they'll go down that road. Basically, the Safety Investigation Board will run under the concept of 'leave no stone unturned.' They're going to look at every single possible thing," Major Maertens said.
The SIB will last approximately 30 days in accordance with Air Force instructions but may be complete at an earlier or later date depending on circumstances surrounding the investigation. Then an Accident Investigation Board will convene, taking control over the mishap site.
"Wreckage can be moved within days after the Safety Investigation Board arrives or up to 30 days (after). Normally, the wreckage and associated debris are moved to a secure and controlled environment for further investigation," Sergeant Winfield said. "Of course, besides preventing reoccurrence, one goal of the Air Force is to restore the area to pre-mishap condition."
"We have the goal of 30 days for the SIB, and the same goal of 30 days for the AIB," Major Maertens said. "This timeframe can be extended if the situation dictates."
Once the SIB has gathered all necessary evidence from the site, investigative control of the site will be transferred to the Accident Investigation Board, which will then conduct its own investigation. The SIB and AIB differ in their purposes. While the SIB determines the cause of the mishap from a safety perspective with results used to prevent further mishaps, the AIB involves legal channels to find the cause or fault.
"Generally, safety investigations last no more than 30 days in order to ensure recommendations are implemented as quickly as possible to prevent reoccurrence," Sergeant Winfield explained. "An AIB is a legal investigation to provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding a mishap."
SIB results "will only be releasable through safety channels as official-use-only information," but AIB results will be available to the public, Major Maertens said.