An answer to the question Why does it take months, sometimes years, for the BEA and NTSB to complete aviation accident investigations? said,

Visiting the Site - First there will be a team that heads to the incident site to collect information. If the site is easily accessible, this may be a fairly quick process. If the site is tough to access, or takes a while to find, this will of course take much longer. This is generally the part most visible to the public, but is only the tip of the iceberg in generating a useful report.

When the site is easily accessible, what is the typical (or average) amount of time spent on site collecting data of a major accident?

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    $\begingroup$ I think this really depends... for a small airplane crash this could be a few hours or a day, for a major accident this could be weeks. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 6, 2020 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer When you say weeks, do you mean two or three, or six to eight? Not looking for a definitive answer, just a general idea of the length of time. $\endgroup$
    – Bob516
    Mar 6, 2020 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ Again, it depends. For a relatively contained accident this may be 2-3 weeks, for something more distributed it may be longer. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 6, 2020 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ Even when accessible, "the site" may be an extremely large area (e.g. D-AIPX), and critical element debris difficult to find for a team of 50 persons. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Mar 9, 2020 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


There are simply too many variables to answer this question, even in general terms. And wreckage accessibility is just a small part of it.

If an aircraft runs off the end of the runway and the pilot survives to make a statement that can be corroborated by another crewmember, tower and other eyewitnesses, as well as weather reports, it doesn't take much time to wrap things up. Probably a few days is all that is actually needed on-site. Most of the work at that point is administrative in writing the report. The aircraft may even be mostly intact and towable.

However, when all you have is a smoking hole in the middle of a pasture, as accessible as the wreckage may, be the investigator's workload is massive. Sifting through all the broken pieces, numbering and cataloging them, plotting locations in the debris field, etc. can take months in itself, and then the real investigation begins. Not to mention the cleanup.

  • $\begingroup$ "Sifting through all the broken pieces, numbering and cataloging them, plotting locations in the debris field, etc. can take months in itself" And if the farmer who owns the property goes "Sure, but I've got a schedule to keep for planting, so you get it out of here by X date or I'm going to drive my tractor through it"? $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Mar 7, 2020 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ Farmer John is well compensated to leave his tractor in the barn. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2020 at 15:47

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