Rare breed of investigators

JAKARTA • A keen eye for detail, serious about safety, able to work as a team, and strong leadership qualities.

These are some of the traits that Singapore's Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) looks for when recruiting air safety investigators.

"Most of us come from an engineering background academically and have some field experience in the aviation industry," said TSIB head of operations Steven Teo.

TSIB was set up following the restructuring of the Air Accident Investigation Bureau in 2016 by the Ministry of Transport.

The objective of its investigations into an incident is not to apportion blame or liability, but rather to help prevent future accidents and promote safety in air and sea travel.

A TSIB team led by Mr Teo recently joined their counterparts from Indonesia's national transportation safety committee KNKT in the search for the flight recorders from the ill-fated Lion Air Flight JT610, which crashed on Oct 29.

KNKT and TSIB have been working closely together, and such international cooperation between investigation agencies is important, Mr Teo told The Sunday Times.

"In any major ongoing air crash investigation, there are always many parties, from many different states involved," he added.

"You may have an aircraft manufactured in country A, a system made in country B, an aviation regulator from country C, a passenger's next-of-kin from country D... so the international element is always extremely high."

Air safety investigators like Mr Teo are a rare breed - there are only 11 of them at TSIB.

New recruits can expect to undergo an intensive training regime at the bureau, where the learning never stops.

Mr Teo said that after a two-week basic air accident investigation course, investigators will frequently have to attend a series of in-house and external training courses, as well as regular sea search exercises, and other aircraft specific familiarisation programmes, throughout their careers.

Francis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 11, 2018, with the headline 'Rare breed of investigators'. Print Edition | Subscribe