Writing Occurrence Report Narratives

Image showing various occurrence reports

Tips for writing the narrative in an occurrence report:

1. Write the report as soon as possible while your memory is fresh and people involved are available to provide you with the facts.

2. When gathering the facts from people, do this one to one and not in a group of people; this reduces the chances of the facts becoming distorted.

3. Always write the facts, not what you or others think happened. Do not judge or add any assumptions or emotions that did not influence the outcome of the occurrence.

4. Always be honest, do not conceal information, or make anything up.

5. Write clearly and concisely with short sentences. THERE IS NO NEED TO SHOUT, electronic reports do not need to be typed in BLOCK CAPITALS.

6. Try to follow a timeline sequence, what led up to the occurrence, the occurrence itself and what happened after the occurrence.

7. Include the facts about what, where, why, how, but restrict to relevant information.

8. Within Mandatory Occurrence Reports do not include the names of people, only include titles or roles, Pilot in Command (PIC), Aerodrome Manager, Operations Officer 1 etc. Names may be held within your own organisation’s reporting system for subsequent investigation, or any follow up actions.

9. If abbreviations are used, these should be noted long hand in the first instance e.g. Pilot in Command (PIC), Pilot-not-flying (PNF), Cabin Services Manager (CSM).

10. Double check your facts and proof read your report (you can write the narrative in a word processor to check spelling and grammar then cut and paste into the report). You may consider getting someone else to read the report to check it for you, ask them does it make sense? Is all the relevant information there? Does the report describe the occurrence as you intended?

Here’s an example of how not to do it, the following is based on a wide selection of reports that have actually been filed:

It was Mr Smith’s son’s birthday (I think his 10th) so he was in a hurry to return, he was flying from XXX to YYY. He is on vacation next week. Mr Smith’s approach to the runway was very poor, in fact, one of the worse I have ever seen. I would have been sick had I'd been on the aircraft! Mr Simpson agreed when I described this to him, he thought Mr Smith should not have a licence, although he always goes on about that, well he doesn’t thinks any of the pilots here should have licences. When the RFFS got to the aircraft Mr Smith was outside the aircraft and Micky thought he said to him, “boy, you were lucky”. Mr Smith’s aircraft was removed from the runway. On landing it appeared one of the main wheel tyres had punctured and this seems to have damaged the aircraft’s flaps, I’m not sure as it was a mess?

Here’s an example how to report:

I was the Tower Controller on duty at YYY. At 14:03 Zulu (Z) the Pilot-in-command (PIC) of a PA34 Seneca aircraft, registration A-BCDE declared a Pan call on my frequency. The aircraft had suffered a bird strike. The PIC stated there were 4 souls on board, he was 20nm northwest of YYYY at 3000ft inbound to YYY estimated time of arrival at 14:12Z.  I immediately alerted the YYYY Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (RFFS). At 14:05Z the PIC reported that he was suffering control difficulties upgrading to a Mayday, which I acknowledged. The RFFS were on standby and in position at 14:06Z. The aircraft landed within the touchdown zone at 14:11Z. It then slewed to the right departing south of the runway coming to a halt approximately 45m from the runway edge and 500m from the runway threshold. The PIC and the 3 passengers then safety evacuated the aircraft, there were no injuries or fire. They were immediately met by the RFFS. The runway was declared closed. The aircraft was inspected and incident scene secured. It had suffered a deflated right main wheel tyre and had sustained blood/feather stained impact damage to the underside inner starboard flap. After obtaining permission from the Accident Investigation Authority and the Operator the aircraft was removed at 16:30Z. The runway was inspected and then re-opened at 16:45Z. Aerodrome Operations have retained a feather sample from the flap to identify the species. The PIC has submitted a report to the aerodrome and authorities our ref: W201612345.

So these are the same incident. The first narrative lacks facts, a timeline, makes assumptions, has no roles and leads to a false picture of the incident. The second narrative provides a number of facts given in a timeline with people’s roles and forms a much better picture based on facts to what occurred. This enables lessons to be learnt and safety to be improved.

So the next time you need to file an occurrence report please consider the importance and the tips to writing a good narrative, it will improve the chances of your report making a difference to improve safety.

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