Air Accident Investigation in Ireland dates back to the early thirties and was historically performed by the aeronautical staff of what is now the Department of Transport.  At various stages in the past, this Department was known as the Department of Industry and Commerce, Department of Transport and Power, Department of Industry and Energy, Department of Energy, the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Department of Public Enterprise and the Department of Transport.

At an international level, Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) for aviation are provided by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  SARPS for Aircraft Accident Investigation were first adopted by the ICAO Council on the 11 April 1951, pursuant to Article 37 of the Convention on Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944) and were designated as Annex 13 to the Convention.  Annex 13 is currently on its Tenth Edition (18 November 2010).

Irish Aviation Authority

In December 1993, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) was set up, as a self-funding semi-state organisation, to regulate civil aviation in Ireland.  At the same time air accident investigation remained within the remit of the then Department. Investigations were conducted under the Statutory Instrument No. 19 of 1957 Air Navigation (Investigation of Accidents) Regulation, 1957.  However, European Union Council Directive 94/56/EC, which established the fundamental principles governing the investigation of civil aviation accidents and incidents of 21 November 1994, (effective 21 November 1996) required under Article 6 that:

 "Each Member State shall ensure that technical investigations are conducted or supervised by a permanent civil aviation body or entity. The body or entity concerned shall be functionally independent in particular of the national aviation authorities responsible for airworthiness, certification, flight operation, maintenance, licensing, air traffic control or airport operation and, in general, of any other party whose interests could conflict with the task entrusted to the investigation body of entity".

Formation of AAIU

As such an independent air accident investigation body, known as the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) was formed in 1994 within the then Department of Transport, Energy and Communications and legislation was prepared to take account of the provisions of Annex 13 and the obligations of the European Union Council Directive 94/56/EC.  On the 25 July 1997, Statutory Instrument No. 205 of 1997 Air Navigation (Notification and Investigation of Accidents and Incidents) Regulations, 1997 came into effect and investigations were conducted under this legislation until 9 December 2009.  

To reflect amendments to Annex 13 (Tenth Edition) a new Statutory Instrument No. 460 of 2009, Air Navigation (Notification and Investigation of Accidents, Serious Incidents and Incidents) Regulations, 2009, was developed and came into effect on 9th December 2009.  This replaces the earlier Statutory Instrument No. 205 of 1997.  Investigations initiated prior to the 9 December 2009 are subject to the provisions of Statutory Instrument No. 205 of 1997.

Investigations undertaken after 9 December 2009 are subject to the provisions of Statutory Instrument No. 460 of 2009. 

In taking account of lessons learn from the implementation of Council Directive 94/56/EC, the establishment of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), amendments to Annex 13 and in order to improve the efficiency of the investigation and prevention of civil aviation accidents and incidents in the Union, a new Regulation (EU) No. 996/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the investigation and prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation was developed and entered into force December 2010.