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The number of accidents and incident reports available online at BEA has changed dramatically between 1996 and 1997:

enter image description here

There was an average of 2 reports per year until 1996, and an average of about 125 reports per year then.

As it is unlikely that there was a sudden increase in the number of events, something in the French legislation and/or the policy of BEA must have changed.

What was the actual reason for this change and sudden increase?

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    $\begingroup$ This is total guesswork, but it could it be that around 1996 the reports were digitized, and thus all are available online, but reports prior to 1996 must be converted to digital format? $\endgroup$ – J Walters Nov 6 '16 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ That seems to make sense, but it would be very odd to digitize only very few of the old reports, instead of all or none. $\endgroup$ – bogl Nov 6 '16 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if your collection is accurate. E.g. in your graphic, there is no report in 74 nor 76. But actually I found the BEA investigated the tragic accident involving Turkish Airlines TC-JAV which occurred in Ermenonville in France in 74. The report was published in 76 on the "JO de la République" which is the legal publication for State decisions and laws (and is indeed public). A pdf file is available on BEA site. Article on Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ – mins Nov 6 '16 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @mins It is related to investigation reports. There is a separate category for notified events, which have very similar numbers with a very similar sudden increase from 1996 to 1997. Your note about 1974 is correct, there is one record that I missed. The graph is updated. $\endgroup$ – bogl Nov 6 '16 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Andrew: While the internet was still in its first years, local network, email and text processing were already well common in enterprises and administrations for at least 5 years, and laptop was starting to spread. I can't imagine the BEA using paper for their reports after 1990. $\endgroup$ – mins Nov 7 '16 at 0:48
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A related event could be the adoption by The European Community Council of:

  • Council Directive 94/56/EC of 21 November 1994 establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of civil aviation accidents and incidents [Official Journal L 319 of 12.12.1994].

European directives must be transposed in a country law and adopted by the country Parliament. This has been done for France in 1999, with the law "Loi n°99-243 du 29 mars 1999". This law actually modified the regulations related to civil aviation (Code de l'Aviation Civile, Livre VII).

Most of the articles added new obligations to the State and, from what I understand, no obligation for investigation or for releasing a public report existed before, so it may have been at the discretion of the Transport Ministry.

Two articles are of interest:

Obligation to investigate every accident or serious incident with the aim of preventing any reoccurrence thereof.

and

Obligation to publish an accident (or incident) report, containing safety recommendations where appropriate.


Regarding your count on the BEA site, this info is lacking some important details, for instance:

  • The hang-glider or ultralight aircraft are relatively new, and we don't know how it has changed the number of incidents/accidents. It's well known that in France hang-glider accidents where not investigated by the BEA because hang-gliders are not subject to an airworthiness certificate. It seems this has changed, but it's not clear to me.

  • You don't provide a list of events, only a list of reports, which as demonstrated in the Rio-Paris accident can multiply by 4 the count because of the 3 interim reports (this is now mandatory to publish a preliminary report each 12 months if the final report cannot be completed within the first year).

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It seems quite clear that this is a digitization artifact. Remember that the internet hasn't been around forever, and making old reports available doesn't just mean copying the PDF to the right place on the webserver because PDF didn't even exist before 1993.

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  • $\begingroup$ Word processing was already daily used by enterprises and organizations in 1995 (e.g. Word 95). Batch converting .doc to .pdf is not big deal. Indeed those electronic documents were not published online like today. $\endgroup$ – mins Nov 7 '16 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ The transition from scanned to digital-borne BEA reports takes place from 1991 to 1993. $\endgroup$ – bogl Nov 11 '16 at 13:07

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