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background information

I was struck by the news of this deadly plane crash on 20 Dec 2018 which claimed 8 lives and apparently is not investigated as the plane and its potential survivors were not even searched for:

A Gomair Antonov AN-26 on behalf Central Electoral National Independent Commission (CENI), registration 9S-AGB performing a cargo flight from Tshikapa to Kinshasa Ndjili (DR Congo) with 7 or 8 crew and election materials, was cleared to descend to 5000 feet on approach to Ndjili's runway 06 when the aircraft went missing about 20nm short of Kinshasa's runway 06 at about 10:00L (09:00Z). The aircraft was found about 24 hours later in hilly terrain (peaks rising up to 700 meters/2300 feet MSL) about 19nm before runway 06. Local Congolese media report Authorities did not launch a search for the aircraft. The aircraft was found by random chance by a local, who reported 8 bodies in the wreckage. (source)


question

Aren't countries bound at least (if nothing else) by international treaties and ICAO regulations to

  • perform SAR operations for missing aircraft lost in their sovereign airspace
  • and investigate the cause of the accident ?

In which countries can deadly plane crashes lack either one or both ?


scope

Q (from a comment below): "There are countries which may not have the resources to conduct their own investigation of a crash and may request assistance from another country."

A: Good point. Countries unequipped to handle S&R or crash investigations can voluntarily outsource either one or both to other countries. For the pupose of this question, a crash in country X investigated by country X or Y does equally count as being investigated, so this is NOT what my question is about. I'm asking about dead passengers searched for by NOBODY and crashes investigated by NOBODY.

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    $\begingroup$ Well yeah, in countries with non-robust civil societies you might say, this kind of stuff may only get investigated if the country of the manufacturer gets involved, because its civil aviation authority may not be equipped. $\endgroup$ – John K Dec 31 '18 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ Your question is a bit vague. Investigated by whom? In the US, military aircraft accidents are not investigated by the NTSB, for example. There are countries which may not have the resources to conduct their own investigation of a crash and may request assistance from another country. $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez Dec 31 '18 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ Congo is a defunct state. It's security forces don't have resources or coordination to mount an effective search and rescue operation at this time. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jan 1 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ @summerrain, yes, it probably is. The problem with war-torn countries is that the situation changes quickly, so at one time investigation might be possible and at another not. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Jan 2 at 7:10
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    $\begingroup$ Who is the DRC going to "voluntarily outsource" the investigation to? Is there a crew of experienced investigators who will come work there for free (keeping in mind that the country has significant security and public health concerns)? Will they do so for every incident? $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Jan 2 at 12:53
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As of 2017 191 of the 193 countries are signed to the ICAO anex and there are 122 national aviation authorities so at least some countries lack serious formal aviation authority and often look to other nations for help. Smaller, war torn nations or nations that do not have the facilities of first world countries may simply not have any ability to provide SAR operations. Its not just about having a helicopter or two hanging around but having a trained crew, a flight doctor and a hospital to bring the potential survivors back to.

Countries are under no obligation to provide SAR operations and generally speaking international treaties can't really force any country to offer something like that. In some cases the crash sites can be difficult to access or outside the range of practical rescue at the time of the incident. In these cases there may be incidents where a country simply cant investigate as it may risk the lives of those investigating.

There are some notable exceptions, the FAA will provide aid to any investigation involving an American built aircraft or having Americans on board anywhere on the globe. This is of course assuming they are permitted to provide such aid (which may not always be the case). The FAA also has a lot of tooling for recovering black box data and in many cases foreign investigations will send the black box to the FAA facility if they lack the data reading tools.

Its not always known when or where planes crash. This generally applies to smaller aircraft that fly VFR from uncontrolled fields. Broadly speaking its possibly to not tell anyone you are going flying, depart at night, and crash in a remote area unknown to anyone that you were ever up or what your flight path was. In this case its possible no searching is done if no one even knows the aircraft needs to be located.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 great answer. re: "its possibly to not tell anyone you are going flying, depart at night, and crash in a remote area unknown to anyone that you were ever up or what your flight path was. In this case its possible no searching is done if no one even knows the aircraft needs to be located." Oh ok. I thought every flight needs to file a flight plan. (Among other things exactly for this purpose so that in case of a crash rescue teams have at least an approximate search location to go by.) Is this false ? $\endgroup$ – summerrain Jan 3 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ @summerrain all IFR flights need to file but VFR flights are under no requirement (here in the US) to file a flight plan. $\endgroup$ – Dave Jan 3 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ @summerrain See this question, although it's for the US only. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jan 4 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ @summerrain vfr, no flightplan filed typically. And of course in disfunctional countries, a filed plan may be lost. And aircraft get stolen. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jan 4 at 3:57

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