There are two ways to study the Safety and Accident Investigation course. There is the direct entry route and the Short Course for Credit route, through which you can undertake modules for credit by attending them as a short course delegate and then use your accrued credits to transfer to the MSc, PgDip or PgCert course at a later date. See more information in the 'How to apply' section of this page for details on how to apply via either route.
Accident investigation is critical to preventing future accidents and promoting a safe environment. The Safety and Accident Investigation MSc will enable you to play a crucial role in identifying the root causes of accidents, learn to implement corrective actions and contribute to improving safety practices.

Cranfield University has been a centre of excellence in the field of accident investigation for over 40 years, having delivered our first accident investigation course in cooperation with the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch in 1977. The high quality of our research and training in aircraft accident investigation has been recognised by being awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2011 – the highest award a UK academic institution can receive.

This course will provide you with academically recognised, high standard qualification and industry leading training in how to undertake safety-based investigations.


  • Start dateJanuary or May
  • DurationTwo to three years - part-time MSc, two years - PgCert, two years – PgDip
  • DeliveryTaught modules 55%, Individual research project 45%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip, PgCert
  • Study typePart-time
  • CampusOnline and Cranfield campus

Who is it for?

This course is suitable for people from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds. We have welcomed students from the aviation, maritime, road and rail transport industries, as well as from manufacturing sectors and military. Our students are typically interested in developing their careers within investigation and normally are very motivated to learn in this field. As a student, you will work towards a qualification that will allow you to further your career development in accident investigation or other safety related areas of the transport industry.

Discover the unique facilities available to you as a student on this course.

Why this course?

The MSc in Safety and Accident Investigation allows you to receive an internationally recognised qualification in the field of accident investigation, from an highly-regarded and well known institution. Cranfield's Safety and Accident Investigation Centre has been a centre of excellence for aircraft accident investigation for over 40 years. In 2011, we were awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our world-leading work in aviation safety through research and training in air accident investigation.

We started our multi-modal accident investigation training in 2005, and have since then established our rail and marine accident investigation training capabilities. Our industry connections and notability mean that we increasingly receive interest from other safety critical industries such as healthcare, infrastructure and power generation, which allows us to further expand our teaching and offer increasing employability opportunities to our graduates.

An important aspect of this course is the use of hands-on workshops and simulations to develop the practical skills required as an investigator, including interviewing techniques, analysis techniques, and technical writing. This is complemented by sessions that enable you to conduct rigorous research and scientific analysis. Throughout the programme you are supported and taught by Cranfield teaching staff and also by leading industry practitioners.

The course is specifically designed to meet the learning aspirations of the international safety professional community. The highly practical nature of the course requires course attendance in the UK for some elements of the programme. However, most of the research and module assessments can be completed online. Cranfield University offers a comprehensive range of library and IT services tuned to support distance learning, enabling domestic and international students to study while balancing work/life commitments.

Informed by Industry

The Industry Advisory Board for this course consist of representatives from several government and commercial organisations who have an interest in safety and accident investigation. This includes representatives from government investigation agencies, military investigation departments, manufacturers and airlines. The board meets annually to ensure the course maintains its very high standard and the course content remains relevant and up-to-date.

Board members have, or have included, representatives from:

  • International current and former state investigators.
  • International current and former military investigators.
  • Safety and investigative consultants.
  • Leading academics in variety of fields involved in safety and investigation.
  • State regulators.
  • Safety and investigation industry professionals.

Course details

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Course delivery

Taught modules 55%, Individual research project 45%

Individual project

The last part in your MSc journey is completing the individual research project, where each student will be supervised individually by a member of an academic staff.

The individual research project is a chance to study a specific subject or problem area in much greater depth and use some of the techniques learned during the course. It gives MSc students an opportunity to apply the technical and analytical skills taught during the course, in a practical way. The subject areas chosen for research projects will be ones which require the student to review literature, collect data, carry out scientific analysis and contribute to either body of knowledge or practical application. The output of this project is a written report presented in the format of a journal paper.


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Fundamentals of Accident Investigation


    To provide accident investigators with the fundamental knowledge and skills to conduct a general transport accident investigation.


    a) Accident response and management

    1. Accident response (contact: 10 / private study: 30)

    Investigation case studies exercise and debrief
    Roles and responsibilities of different interested parties
    Accident notification processes
    Deployment considerations
    Investigation site management and procedures
    Health and safety at the accident site
    Initial appraisal of land- and sea-based sites 

    2. Investigation management (contact: 10 / private study: 30)

    The purpose of safety investigations
    Regulatory requirements
    Group system of investigation
    Managing high-profile, complex and large investigations
    Accident pathology
    Working with the media
    Liaising with victims and families
    Court procedures for investigators

    b) Conduct of an investigation

    1. Evidence collection (contact: 25 / private study: 50)

    Defining evidence
    Evidence within the investigation process
    Types of evidence
    Principles of identifying and recording of evidence
    Evidence harvesting and preservation
    Wreckage and evidence photography
    Site survey techniques, including remote site surveys and underwater surveys
    Investigative interviewing techniques
    Working with data recorders and other sources of electronic data, including different types of memory
    Understanding crashworthiness and survivability issues 

    2. Human factors in accidents (contact: 8 / private study: 15)

    Human factors aspects in accident investigation
    Passenger behaviour

    3. Analysis of evidence (contact: 20 / private study 35)

    Fundamentals of analysis
    Analytical approaches
    Organisational accidents
    Applying analysis tools
    Application of analysis methods in investigation simulation 

    4. Developing safety recommendations (contact: 4 / private study: 10)

    Relations with the regulator and other parties
    Developing and managing recommendations
    Follow-up actions

    5. Report writing (contact: 3 / private study: 10)

    Purpose of an investigation report
    Planning and preparation of a report
    Report structure and format

    c) Practical workshops (practical work: 20 / private study: 20)

    Evidence collection workshop
    Site tutorial workshop (field)
    Accident simulation exercise (field)
    Courtroom procedures workshop
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the investigation process for a transport accident - including elements of accident response, site management, evidence collection and analysis, report writing and development of safety recommendations.
  2. Evaluate the regulatory factors affecting an accident investigation, including the purpose of an investigation and the relevant legislation/regulations; the degree of empowerment/independence of investigators; and the protection of key evidence.
  3. Work safely under supervision at an accident site, including the identification of hazards and management of associated risks.
  4. Compare and evaluate different techniques for preserving and gathering material evidence from a variety of relevant sources following an accident, including technical data.
  5. Demonstrate knowledge of different methods and techniques for recording effective imagery of an accident site.
  6. Demonstrate a practical understanding of the theory and skills required to gather reliable witness evidence by conducting effective witness interviews following an accident.
  7. Evaluate the different human factors that contribute to accidents and their potential effect on the investigation process.
  8. Perform an analysis of available evidence to identify and present the factors contributing to an accident.
  9. Develop effective evidence-based recommendations to prevent future accident occurrences.
  10. Critically assess strategies for working alongside interested parties including emergency services, legal services, pathologist, scientific support, news media, families and regulatory authorities.

Research Methods (MSc only)


    Industrial roles which draw on skill sets in safety and human factors demand the skill sets developed in this module in support of the course level learning outcomes.      

    Collecting data

    Doing research (research ethics, the research story, the thesis, the hypothesis).
    Introduction to experimental design - basic designs, experimental control, and minimising error variance.
    Qualitative data analysis.
    Questionnaire design (content, phrasing, response formats and analysis).

    Analysing quantitative data

    Exploring data (descriptive statistics, levels of measurement).
    Examining differences (parametric and non-parametric statistical tests).
    Examining relationships (bivariate correlation).
    Introduction to modelling data.   
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  1. Be able to develop, plan and communicate research in a structured way.
  2. Be able to identify ethical issues when using human participants in research.
  3. Be able to develop effective questionnaires and subjective-rating scales to answer research questions.
  4. Be able to select and conduct appropriate qualitative and quantitative research methods and apply methods to different research needs.

Elective modules
One of the modules from the following list needs to be taken as part of this course

Applied Aircraft Accident Investigation


    This module builds on the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation module to develop specialist skills for the investigation of aircraft accidents.

    Investigation of fixed and rotary wing aircraft accidents

    Impact and flight path assessment 
    The operations investigator’s approach
    The engineering investigator’s approach
    Sources of physical, data, documentary and people evidence
    Conduct of complex/major investigations
    Aircraft structural failure (metal/composites)
    Aircraft performance
    Crew and maintenance performance and human factors aspects
    Flight data recorders
    Cockpit voice recorders
    Use of recorded data
    Survivability factors
    Investigation approach - case studies

    Air traffic control

    ATC investigations and case studies

    State investigation bodies

    Overview of a civil air accident investigation organisation
    Overview of a military air accident

    Powerplants and propulsion

    Piston engine operations
    Turbine engine operations
    Role of manufacturer in investigation
    Engine teardown on site/at base
    Case studies

    Major investigation simulation 

    Hazard identification at an aircraft accident site
    Management of risk at an aircraft accident site
    Physical examination of wreckage
    Accident site photography
    Accident site management
    Wreckage plotting
    Witness interviewing
    Application of analysis techniques
    Preparation of recommendations
    Formal report writing

    Investigation management 

    Dealing with other agencies
    Accredited representatives/technical advisors
    Participating in an overseas investigation
    Managing an investigation
    Managing the politics
    Managing the news media
    Preparing to release an investigation report
    The role of the Investigator in Charge
    The role of the Chief Inspector

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  1. Demonstrate that you can successfully manage an aircraft accident investigation including efficient time management, working to set deadlines and targets, demonstrating self-discipline, creative thinking and critical reflections of your own performance and effectively communicate your conclusions and safety recommendations via a formal report.
  2. Describe aircraft accident operational and technical common failure/error types in terms of the human element and complex/less complex operational and technical systems.
  3. Appraise and critique your own work and that of other practitioners/specialists.

Applied Marine Accident Investigation

Module Leader
  • Alan Parmenter

    This module builds on the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation module to develop specialist skills for the investigation of marine accidents. 

    Marine accident investigation legal and management issues (contact: 10 / private study: 25)

    The international legal basis for marine accident investigation and the practical application of the rules, recommendations and guidance:

    Historical background and the role of the IMO
    UNCLOS, SOLAS, MARPOL and other relevant conventions
    The Casualty Investigation Code
    National laws
    VDR ownership and recovery
    EU Directive
    Case studies as appropriate   

    Managing a marine accident investigation:

    Notification of and coordination and communication with other agencies/parties
    Using technical advisors
    Time/resource management
    Managing the news media
    Cultural aspects
    Preparing to release an investigation report
    Managing recommendations
    Possible litigation aspects
    The role of the Investigator-in-Charge
    The role of the Chief Inspector
    Case studies and simulations, as appropriate

    Marine specific investigation techniques (contact: 20 / private study: 60)

    Site risk assessment and hazard identification for common marine accident scenarios:

    Access to the accident site
    The presence of dangerous substances and atmospheres
    Bio hazards in the marine environment
    The safety of the ship platform
    Case studies e.g. CP Valour (Bermuda), MSC Napoli (UK) 

    Evidence preservation and collection issues in common marine accident scenarios:

    Access issues
    Commercial pressures
    Legal considerations
    Technical evidence- VDRs, AIS, ECDIS, VTS, CCTV 
    Evidence collection strategies
    Various case studies, as appropriate

    Human performance, human factors and marine accidents:

    Risk and risk-taking behaviour
    Analysis of errors in the marine context
    Multi-national crewing, social and cultural issues
    Language and communication
    Fatigue, leadership and complacency 
    Safety culture
    Master/pilot relationship
    Commercial pressures
    Uncovering the organisational and systemic factors
    Case studies, as appropriate

    Investigating marine collisions, contacts and grounding accidents:

    Displaying and analysing VDR and other electronic evidence, MADAS
    Collision regulations and their effectiveness
    Investigating competence, fatigue and other human performance issues
    Collisions in poor visibility, safe speed issues
    Casualties in harbour areas, master/pilot relationship
    Case studies e.g.  Cosco Busan (US) Lykes Voyager/Washington Senator (UK), Royal Majesty (Panama)

    Investigating ship fires: 

    Site risk assessment and hazard identification
    Engine room fires
    Cargo fires
    Accommodation fires
    Fire detection, firefighting, fire protection and evacuation issues
    Case studies, as appropriate   

    Investigating structural/material failures, loading and stability problems: 

    Maintenance and operational history
    Practical evidence gathering problems and potential solutions
    Corrosion, fatigue and other failure modes
    Forensic analysis methods
    Case studies, as appropriate

    Investigating machinery failures:

    Overview of different types of engineering and machinery failures
    Sources of evidence
    Non-destructive & destructive testing
    Trials and reconstructions
    Failure mode analysis
    Case studies, as appropriate.

    Investigating occupational health and safety accidents:

    Analysis of common marine occupational accidents, eg.
    Enclosed space entry accidents
    Accidents involving use/misuse of machinery – watertight doors, cranes
    Mooring accidents
    Lifeboat, rescue craft and evacuation equipment accidents
    Safety Management issues
    Case studies as appropriate

    General investigation techniques (contact: 30 / private study: 80)

    Enhanced investigative interviewing techniques:

    General recap of investigative interviewing and memory theory
    Overview of cognitive interviewing
    Introduction to SE3R methodology
    Quadrant Behaviour

    Investigation analysis techniques:

    General recap of analysis methods
    Principals and pitfalls of no-blame marine investigations
    Application of systemic models in marine investigations
    Overview of selected accident analysis models, eg. SHELL, AIBN model, STEP
    Case studies and mentored practical workshops

    Investigation report writing and recommendation development:

    Purpose of writing an investigation report
    Guidance on report writing
    Report planning and preparation
    Report structure
    Principles of writing an effective report
    Critiquing accident investigation reports
    Principles of developing effective recommendations

    Major investigation simulation (contact: 40 / private study: 35)

    A major marine accident investigation exercise which examines:

    Team and investigation management
    Team working
    Cooperation and coordination with other interested parties (including other investigations, the media etc.)
    Securing the accident site
    Health and safety and risk assessment at the accident site
    Physical examination and accident site photography
    Physical and documentary evidence collection
    Technical evidence identification and collection
    Witness interviewing
    Evidence analysis 
    Preparation of recommendations
    Formal report writing
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  1. Demonstrate you can work safely and effectively without supervision at a marine accident site, coordinating where necessary with other interested parties.
  2. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the different approaches to the investigation of different types of marine accidents and safely and effectively collect information/evidence from a variety of electronic, hard copy and witness sources to support investigations and research.
  3. Describe marine accident operational and technical common failure/error types in terms of the human element and complex/less complex operational and technical systems.
  4. Demonstrate that you can successfully manage a marine accident investigation, including efficient time management, working to set deadlines and targets, demonstrating self-discipline, creative thinking and critical reflections of your own performance and effectively communicate your conclusions and safety recommendations via a formal report.
  5. Appraise and critique your own work and that of other practitioners/specialists and collaborate effectively during group workshops, simulations and group assignments.

Applied Rail Accident Investigation


    This module builds on the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation module to develop specialist skills for the investigation of rail accidents.


    Advanced investigative skills

    • Rail accident site management and dealing with other agencies 

    • Rail accident site risk management

    • Advanced interviewing skills

    • Advanced investigative photography

    • Advanced analysis methods

    • Investigating safety management system


    Investigating railway operations accidents

    • Investigation approach and overview of factors contributing to level crossing accidents, Signal Passed at Danger, overspeeding, track worker/maintenance staff fatalities and near-misses, platform safety including platform-train interface and train door irregularities, train/vehicle runaways and authorised movements, and train/rail vehicle collision

    • Relevant safety systems in train control

    • Relevant human factors aspects

    • Rail crashworthiness and passenger survivability

    • Investigations related to light rail (tram) and driverless operations


    • Investigating derailment accidents


    • Overview of factors contributing to derailment accidents and case studies

    • Collecting, inspecting and interpreting evidence (on site)

    • Dynamic modelling of wheel/rail interface response

    • Relevant human factors aspects

    • Rail crashworthiness and passenger survivability


    • Accident investigation simulation

    A five-day practical exercise in a simulated accident investigation scenario where delegates can apply the skills and knowledge acquired in the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation course and other workshops in the Applied Rail Accident Investigation series. The simulation takes the delegate through the entire investigation process from notification, site investigation, interviews, analysis, report writing and formulating recommendations. 

    • Team and investigation management.

    • Securing the accident site.

    • Managing news media

    • Health and safety at the accident site.

    • Risk assessment of the accident site.

    • Physical examination of wreckage/track.

    • Documentation investigation (procedures, manuals, logs, etc).

    • Accident site photography.

    • Accident site management.

    • Witness interviewing.

    • Application of analysis techniques.

    • Developing recommendations.

    • Formal report writing.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Identify potential hazards at a rail accident site and assess the risks and mitigation methods in order to work safely whilst conducting an investigation.
  • Identify and evaluate common failure types and their symptoms in terms of structures, rolling stock, railway systems and human factors.
  • Describe the role of the different parties in the accident investigation process and manage the relationships between these parties.

  • Successfully manage an accident investigation, both on-site and through to the publication and acceptance of recommendations.

  • Compose an accident report and develop feasible safety recommendations.

Interviewing Techniques for Accident Investigators

    The Interviewing for Accident Investigators module is designed to provide delegates with an enhanced level of theoretical and practical skills to effectively interview various types of witness to gather evidence in support of successful safety accident investigations. 

    The module adopts a balanced curriculum of theoretical learning and practical sessions involving interviews of live witnesses, with video debriefing, to deliver a practical learning experience supported by the latest academic thinking in investigative interviewing.

    The module is intended to build on the interviewing skills developed during the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation, Applied Aircraft Accident Investigation, Applied Marine Accident Investigation and Applied Rail Accident Investigation modules. However, it can also be attended as a standalone module for delegates who wish to gain an enhanced qualification in investigative interviewing, and would be particularly suited to delegates with previous experience of conducting investigative interviews.

    The module will have an emphasis on interviews forming part of no-blame safety  investigations of accidents. Its content will be applicable to investigators from other safety critical domains and high reliability organisations, such as healthcare, process industries, and energy utilities.

    1. Refresher of the fundamentals of investigative interviewing (pre-read):

    Basic principles of investigative interviewing.
    Basic interviewing models:
    Conversation Management.
    Conducting a PEACE interview.
    Use of different questioning techniques – Open v. Closed, Directed, Confirmatory, etc.
    Fundamentals of cognitive interviewing.
    Basic theory of memory and recall.

    2. Enhanced theory of investigative interviewing

    Enhanced theory of memory and psychology applied during investigative interviewing.
    SE3R methodology for managing and recording interviews.
    Introduction to concept of enhanced cognitive interview techniques, including free recall.
    Biases and heuristics – investigator and witnesses.
    Introduction to non-cognitive interview techniques for interviewees who have not directly witnessed the accident.

    3. Preparation for the interview

    Assessment of the emotional and psychological state of witnesses.
    Awareness of the characteristics of potentially vulnerable witnesses and the challenges faced when interviewing them.
    Consideration of cultural, religious, social factors that may have an effect on the witness interview.
    Strategies for planning and structuring different types of interviews.
    Identification of the most appropriate interview technique to apply.

    4. Conducting the interview

    Management of the initial phases of the interview to build rapport and ensure that all legal and ethical aspects have been considered.
    Implementation of the appropriate interviewing model in accordance with the interview strategy/plan.
    Adopting a meaningful, effective and consistent strategy for summarising and recording witness evidence.
    Introduction to strategies for dealing with challenging/difficult witnesses, including obstructive and inappropriate behaviour.
    Identifying and employing appropriate challenge techniques for any inconsistencies/omissions during an interview.
    Dealing with other third party attendees at the interview, e.g. legal representatives, trade union representatives, friends/family.
    Effective interview closure strategies.

    5. Post-interview phase

    Recording and summarising of the interview information.
    Strategies for conducting an effective self-critique of the interview process to ensure continuous performance improvement.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the underlying interviewing theories, including memory theory and psychological factors affecting witness recall, and biases and heuristics of both witnesses and investigators.
  • Describe and critically assess the most appropriate interview technique(s) to be adopted during an accident safety investigation to ensure the effective gathering of witness evidence, including cognitive/non-cognitive interview techniques.
  • Develop an appropriate and effective interview strategy and plan to ensure the efficacy of the interview and optimise the gathering of the available information.
  • Conduct an effective witness interview with regard to the selection of the most appropriate interview methodology, the welfare of the witness, the quality of the evidence collected and the accuracy of note taking, and effective self-critique of the interview process.
  • Develop an awareness of the characteristics of potentially vulnerable witnesses and the challenges faced when interviewing them.

Investigating Human Performance


    The Investigating Human Performance module encourages students to look critically at the contribution humans make in high reliability organisations (HROs). Using psychological theory and analysis, the human contribution (positive and sometimes negative) is addressed. Theories and approaches of human performance explored on this module should help the student understand the human factors affecting those involved with accidents or incidents, as well as the investigator.

    Introduction to human factors 

    The role of human performance in accidents 
    Objectives of the course 
    Assignment briefing 

    Individual factors 

    Human error
    Skill-based errors 
    Rule-based errors 
    Knowledge-based errors
    Human cognition 
    Human performance and limitations 
    Attention and vigilance 
    Information processing 
    Decision making 
    Situational awareness 
    Medical factors 
    Physiology and its effect on performance 
    The role of the pathologist 
    The role of the general practitioner 
    Ethics of accessing medical information 
    Workload, fatigue and tiredness 
    Tiredness versus fatigue 
    Effects of fatigue 
    Things that look like fatigue but aren’t 
    Building up a valid history 
    Using fatigue assessment tools  

    Job / Workplace Factors 

    Evaluating ergonomics 
    Assessing task / workload 
    Interpreting error prediction tools 
    Environmental factors 
    Team factors 
    Leadership / followership 
    Cultural factors 

    Organisational and management factors 

    The role of culture in causation 
    The role of management in causation 
    Measuring safety culture 
    Assessing responses to previous events 
    Case study investigations 

    Human performance evidence collection tools 
    Commonly used checklists and tools 
    Benefits and limitations 
    Case studies of use 
    Analysis of human factors 
    Biases and heuristics
    Ethical issues 
    Interpretation of recorded data 
    Interpretation of witness / interview data 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the key areas of consideration for an accident investigator in terms of human performance in transport operations;
  • Identify suitable techniques for the collection of accurate evidence relating to human performance;
  • Critically assess the effectiveness of contemporary human factors evidence collection and analysis tools;
  • Identify at what point an expert should be approached about the collection or analysis of human performance evidence;
  • Evaluate the human performance aspects of contemporary accident investigations.

Analysis Techniques for Accident Investigators

    The aim of this module is to introduce students to analysis techniques based on conventional as well as contemporary accident causation theories, and provide them with the approach to selecting the techniques and the opportunity to apply them in a learning environment.
    Pre-read (online learning via VLE):

    Selected accident analysis techniques and their underlying theories. This includes sequential, epidemiological, and systemic techniques with emphasis on systemic techniques, with case studies/example application

    Factors to be considered in selecting analysis techniques e.g. system structure, system component relationships, system behaviour.

    Contact time:

    Discussions: critical evaluation of selected techniques based on case studies.

    Practical application of techniques, including developing timeline/sequence of events, evaluation of evidence, and identifying safety issues. 

    Translating analysis models into written report – guidelines and tips.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Appraise different accident analysis techniques in context of their underlying theories.
  • Determine technique(s) to be used in analysing evidence in accident investigation appropriately.
  • Synthesise evidence, identify areas of further investigations, and draw conclusions using selected accident analysis technique(s).
  • Identify areas to be addressed by safety recommendations and develop the recommendations in accordance with applicable standards and good practice guidelines.
  • Compose a written work that reflects the analysis, conclusions and recommendations conducted using the analysis technique in accordance with applicable standards and good practice guidelines.


Courtroom Skills

    To provide an understanding of the role and responsibilities of expert witnesses in domestic and international criminal and civil cases and how they can present their evidence to the court effectively. To apply knowledge gained in previous modules to strengthen arguments presented in expert witness reports.

    Your journey through this module starts in fact in October with a short introduction on the things to come much later in April and May the following year. This will explain what you have to do between October and May.  

    Kate Hewins has presented within the RFS module a brief on expert witness report writing (voice over PPT is included in both CS canvas and RFS canvas pages) and Peter Zioupos has given an Introduction to CS during the RFS module, a recording of which you can find in both CS canvas and RFS canvas pages. 

    Between October 2021 and 8th April 2022 (the deadline for submission of expert witness statements) the best way to get some advice and guidance on writing the reports is by contacting each of the theme leaders for the FMP course (Nicholas Márquez-Grant, Kate Hewins, Hannah Moore, Peter Zioupos, Mike Harris, Andrew Sheldon, David Errickson, Stephanie Giles, Craig Cattell). They will be able to give you specific instructions each within each area of expertise/skills and forensic modular masters theme. 

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast between the various legal systems and the concepts of criminal prosecution and civil litigation.
  • Evaluate and compose in the role and with the responsibilities of an expert witness.
  • Construct, formulate and appraise an effective expert witness report in compliance to legal requirements for such a document.
  • Construct a case to present oral evidence in court effectively and respond successfully to cross-examination, with an insight into how cross-examination is prepared.

Crisis Management and Business Continuity


    Crisis management is a topic area relevant to airlines, airports and other organisations involved with delivering air transport. These organisations typically have dedicated personnel and departments to emergency response and crisis planning. The aim of this course is to provide students with an overview of how to plan for crises, what to expect when they happen, and how to deal with practicalities such as dealing with media, survivors and in the longer term, insurers.


    Crisis management planning

    Crisis communications

    Critical function and risk analysis

    Business continuity development and strategy

    Crisis management exercise

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the key elements of a crisis 
  • Analyse the importance of effective crisis management
  • Critically evaluate past aviation crisis management
  • Facilitate business continuity planning.


Human Factors in Aviation Maintenance

    The module aims to provide a broad overview of the nature and management of human error in the aviation maintenance domain. Key theories and frameworks for investigating maintenance human error, contributing factors and effects on operations are introduced. The challenges associated with practical application of currently available safety tools are examined together with the latest strategies to enhance understanding and management of maintenance error. This module does not require previous background in aviation maintenance and engineering.
    • The nature of the maintenance environment: this includes both civil and military environments.
    • Maintenance management: organisation, line and base maintenance, planning, maintenance control, error management systems, shift handover, blame cycle, communication in the workplace, workplace environment, work/job design. Regulatory framework: Legal requirements. EASA/Part 145 Maintenance Human factors. 
    • Designing for human factors: what can be done by the designer to reduce and mitigate human error. Design philosophies and human-centred design. 
    • Human error management in maintenance: the benefits and challenges associated with the use and application of reporting systems and safety tools. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to: 

  1. Analyse the regulatory framework and the environment within which aviation maintenance takes place.
  2.  Evaluate current methods for maintenance error management (reactive, proactive and predictive).
  3. Appraise the links between human factors, aircraft maintenance and safety.
  4. Analyse ways in which maintenance errors can be reduced at the design stage.

Flight Data Monitoring


    To provide an understanding of Flight Data Monitoring within a commercial organisation and to detail the uses, processes and responsibilities of a successful FDM programme.


    The history of FDM and an overview of its objectives

    CAP739, EASA and ICAO regulatory frameworks

    Integration of FDM within a safety system

    FDM technology

    Data recovery and analysis tools

    Principles of data validation and assessment

    Trace interpretation, with both theoretical and practical sessions

    Database management

    The use of statistics in data analysis

    Animations and visualisation in data presentation

    FDM in accident and incident investigation

    The interface between the analyst and crews

    Legal aspects of FDM data collection, retention and use

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Describe the typical activities in flight data monitoring.
  • Analyse basic flight data traces and listings, and understand the sequence of the underlying events.
  • Assess the quality of flight data and FDM generated information (e.g. FDM results and trends).

Aviation Safety Management

    To provide students with the fundamental skills required to manage operational safety within the aviation industry.
    • The fundamentals of a Safety Management System, and introduction to associated guidance material provided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and other State safety regulatory bodies; 
    • Safety data, safety information and analyses; including reporting systems, investigation and Flight Data Monitoring (FDM);
    • Hazard identification and risk management, including an introduction to Enterprise Risk Management (ERM); 
    • Safety performance and safety health; including guidance on audits and safety promotion; 
    • Safety organisations, including guidance on effective management of safety teams. 
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to: 

  • Describe the fundamental concepts behind Safety Management Systems (SMS), as defined by ICAO and other regulatory bodies;
  • Select and implement techniques for the identification, quantification and management of hazards and risks;
  • Critically assess strategies for developing and enhancing safety culture including the role of leadership, structure and reporting systems;
  • Identify techniques for measuring safety performance; 

Safety Assessment of Aircraft Systems


    To familiarise course members with the various approaches to the problems of assessing the safety of increasingly complex aircraft systems.

    Introduction and background

    Outline of relevant accidents and system design philosophy.  Discussion of acceptable accident rates and recent advances in systems.  Introduction to probability methods.

    Regulatory background 

    The development of requirements for safety assessment, FAR / EASA CS25—1309.

    Methods and techniques

    Introduction to the more common safety analysis techniques. Influence of human factors.  Common mode failures, traps and pitfalls of using safety assessment and examples of mechanical systems and power plants.

    Use of safety assessment techniques

    Determination of correct architecture of safety critical systems.  Fault Tree Analysis, Dependence Diagrams and Boolean algebra for quantification of system reliability.  Zonal safety analysis (ZSA), Particular Risk Analysis (PRA) and Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) of aircraft systems.

    Practical examples of the application of safety assessment techniques

    Minimum Equipment Lists (MEL), Safety and Certification of digital systems and safety critical software.  Application of Aerospace Recommended Practice (ARP) 4761.  Typical safety assessment for a stall warning and identification system.

    Current and future issues

    Integrated and modular systems and their certification.  Certification maintenance requirements.  Flight-deck ergonomics.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the regulatory background behind the Safety Assessment of Aircraft Systems. 
  • Evaluate and apply the technique(s) which is most appropriate for the system under consideration. 
  • Explain the theory behind each technique, including the strengths and weaknesses of each one, and be aware of possible pitfalls. 
  • Appreciate the role of safety assessment in the overall context of aircraft certification. 
  • Illustrate the issues to be faced for the certification of new systems and aircraft.

Introduction to Aircraft Structural Crashworthiness

    The aim of this module is to provide you with an understanding of the design of crashworthy aircraft structures and the considerations necessary when designing safe and crashworthy aircraft. The main purpose of crashworthy design is to eliminate injuries and fatalities in mild impacts and minimise them in severe but survivable impacts.
    • Overview of Aircraft Crashworthiness 
      - Objectives and Approach
      - Regulations
       - Human Tolerance
    • Crash Energy Management

    • Structural Collapse

       - Collapse of metallic and composite structural components
       - Component collapse vs. structural collapse

    • Introduction to methods for crash analysis

       - Hand calculations
       - Hybrid analysis methods
       - Detailed analysis methods
    • Role and capability of testing and simulation in the crashworthiness field
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to:

  • Examine relevant crashworthiness regulations.
  • Analyse the key issues of structural crashworthiness.
  • Examine the collapse of thick and thin-walled sections.
  • Evaluate the global collapse of structures.
  • Critically evaluate the crashworthiness of structures.

Your career

The majority of students join this course with the intention of receiving a qualification that will support their career development in accident investigation or other safety related areas. Previous students have been employed by dedicated government investigation agencies, airframe and power plant manufacturers, air traffic services, safety regulation, insurers, and the military. The MSc in Safety and Accident Investigation allows you to receive an internationally recognised qualification in the field of accident investigation.

Roles our students have gone into include:

State Ops Inspectors (Air/Rail/Marine)
State Engineering Inspectors r (Air/Rail/Marine)
State Data Recorder Inspectors (Air/Rail/Marine)
Healthcare Incident/Accident Investigators
Defence Safety investigators
State Transport Regulators
Company safety investigators
Safety investigators in other safety-critical industries such as Construction, Nuclear etc.

Companies that employ our graduates include:

UK Defence AIB
Danish Armed Forces
Malaysia Armed Forces
CAA Malaysia
Air Canada
Swiss Air Force
Saolta University Health Care Group (Ireland)
Irish AAIU
Transport Accident Investigation Commission – New Zealand
Aviation Investigation Bureau (AIB) of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates Air Accident Investigation Sector
Royal Air Force of Oman
Australian Defence Force
Norwegian Armed Forces
Hungarian TSB
Accident Investigation Bureau of Nigeria
Norwegian Safety Investigative Authority
Rolls-Royce Plc
Titan Airways
Etihad Airways
Korean Air
Costain (Construction)
Carnival Corporation
Thameslink Trains
London Underground
Volker Rail

Cranfield’s Career Service
is dedicated to helping you meet your career aspirations. You will have access to career coaching and advice, CV development, interview practice, access to hundreds of available jobs via our Symplicity platform and opportunities to meet recruiting employers at our careers fairs. Our strong reputation and links with potential employers provide you with outstanding opportunities to secure interesting jobs and develop successful careers. Support continues after graduation and as a Cranfield alumnus, you have free life-long access to a range of career resources to help you continue your education and enhance your career.

How to apply

This course offers two entry routes, direct entry to the MSc or Short Course for Credit where you take modules for credit towards the MSc in the form of short courses.

MSc entry

Click on the ‘Apply Now’ button to start your online application.

See our Application guide for information on our application process and entry requirements.

Short Course for Credit entry

For more information about applying for the Short Course for Credit route please contact

A most enjoyable and thoroughly rewarding course which professionally develops the individual through both practical learning and exposure to industry experts. A diverse selection of courses are available that offer potentially new areas of professional study to explore. Worldwide experience and knowledge are shared from fellow international students, both in the classroom and socially, offering perfect networking links. This course is wholeheartedly recommended to anyone that wants to either further their career, or are exploring a new career avenue into Safety and Accident Investigation.

Captain Adam Williams, FDM Manager/Training Captain, Starspeed Ltd