How Forensic Engineering Solves Aviation Mysteries

Who doesn’t love an exciting crime drama? Such shows captivate audiences as they watch professionals employ a range of tools and techniques to get to pinpoint what happened long after the fact. Aviation detectives do the same thing, only instead of examining fingerprints or possessions left at the scene of a crime, they closely look at aircraft parts salvaged from a crash. By carefully scrutinizing rivets, arms, levelers, brackets and bolts and other recovered aircraft components, it’s sometimes possible to gain a clear picture of what went wrong when the true cause of a crash isn’t clear.

Forensic Engineers Show How Plane Crashes Are Investigated | Voice of America

engineeringImage Source: Voice of America

When the RTI group is hired to investigate a crash, their first task is confirming the part belongs to the plane. A scanning electron microscope begins analyzing the paint. Red peaks with letters and numbers show up on a computer graph.
’Each of those red peaks represents an element on the periodic table,’ [RTI Group founder, Joe] Reynolds says. This kind of test could also be used by experts in the MH370 investigation because the plane’s paint is a formula unique to the Boeing 777. Back in the other lab room, forensic engineers check for ‘witness marks,’ any cuts, scrapes left by an adjacent part as it broke away.”

Did you know that mysterious aircraft crashes could be decoded in this way? Do you think this approach will definitively solve the mystery surrounding the MH370? Share your thoughts in the comments.