Updated October 18, 2023

The NTSB has upgraded its search query tool for reports and recommendations. The new CAROL system (Case Analysis and Reporting OnLine) is a sweet “nod” to former NTSB analyst Carol Floyd, who retired in 2017. The link to the new database search tool with keyword search option is here: https://data.ntsb.gov/carol-main-public/keyword-search

We recommend using the “basic search” features to find monthly reports. Search for “Investigations” and it will allow you to enter the dates you would like to search (after 2010); For prior reports, the NTSB website is still required. The reports can also be searched by location and other keywords.

Where docket information is available, the NTSB has provided a link; If a Preliminary Report or Factual Report is available, there is a PDF icon to click on. The + icon on the right also allows a quick view of additional information about the item, such as the type of aircraft involved.

The guide to using the query search tools is here: https://www.ntsb.gov/Documents/CAROL-Guide.pdf It appears to be a more robust option for our search of the reports, including searching for keywords in the narratives and recommendations, which may prove quite useful in aviation accident cases.

Top 5 Tips For Finding What You Need On NTSB’s CAROL

As our aviation readers may know, the new Case Analysis and Reporting Online tool, called CAROL, has been up and running for some time now, and has some improved search features. CAROL is the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) online query tool. There is a helpful guide online, but sometimes it helps to have a few tips highlighted for our readers as a “how to” guide to find what you need. This article has our Top 5 tips for searching CAROL:

TIP No. 1 – Investigations vs. Recommendations

In either the Basic Search or the Advance Search option, you will see the choice at the top for two different “lenses,” so to speak- Investigations or Recommendations:

The Investigations radial will provide results with investigative records. However, there are data limitations for this option, which might result in an incomplete search. So, remember to check each option to make sure your search yields the most complete results. You might find more results with the Recommendations radial selected.

TIP No. 2 – Check out the Published Searches:

As noted, the published searches show “dynamic data” meaning that they are updated each time you open them. There are several aviation-related searches saved there.

As an example, when you click on the published search option for “Child Restraints in Aircraft,” the most current recommendations and actions are included from various investigations. Our readers might be interested to know that in 2013, the FAA rejected an NTSB recommendation to require certain child restrain systems on aircraft, based on the FAA’s analysis that if parents have to pay extra to comply with such requirements, then they are more likely to travel by automobile via highways, but “highway travel is statistically more dangerous than air travel,” which would lead to increased fatalities. The FAA’s analysis showed that even if a very small number of these families diverted to highway travel, more fatalities related to highway travel would result compared to those from flying. Readers can also see the history of correspondence and considerations between the NTSB and the FAA in evaluating this issue and as it related to an investigation of an incident where some minors were not restrained or were improperly restrained in a Part 91 operation of an aircraft.

There are many other safety recommendations under the Child Restraints in Aircraft dynamic search that our readers may find interesting – in fact, the FAA agreed in 1995 to establish education programs for general aviation pilots on the benefits of using child restraint systems, which led to the increase in voluntary use of such systems over the years. Using the published searches is a great way to find important information and in a way that will be updated as the topic progresses over time.

TIP No. 3 – Sort by column

Under the search options, once results are shown, they are usually sorted by default. However, you can actually click on some of the columns at the top and sort by those specifics instead (ascending or descending) as to whichever your preference may be.

We have found it helpful to sort by “Event Date” to see which ones occurred before others, as part of our analysis of the information. It sometimes can provide key insights into the progress of certain investigations and recommendations.

Bonus tip: Once you select a result, you can use the “Ctrl + F” keyboard option to search on the page wherever your keywords may show up.

TIP No. 4 – Download reports/searches

It is interesting that the CAROL site allows for the searches to be downloaded to a JSON file, which is used often for data analysis/management and software development. There could be some interesting applications with the use of the data published on CAROL.

The search results can also be downloaded to a CSV file, which when viewed in excel can provide additional data insights that might not be readily understood by looking at a list directly. Some of the experts in civil litigation may rely on data that comes from meta-analysis of such records, and thus, it can become important to understand how the data from CAROL can be exported for data analysis purposes.

TIP No. 5 – Monthly Aviation Dashboard (not actually on CAROL)

This one is not exactly a “how to” involving CAROL, but we felt our aviation readers may be interested in knowing there is a NTSB Monthly Aviation Dashboard: Monthly Aviation Dashboard (ntsb.gov) that identifies the accidents investigated/being investigated and the accident locations in near real time. This information can give important insights into trends in the aviation industry that are significant to our clients.

The NTSB also shows the monthly summaries of accidents on this page: NTSB – Aviation Accidents – Index of Months. One additional helpful feature we found is that you can click on the month of the year and it will create/pre-populate a CAROL search for you.

For example, clicking on the month of “July 2023” will populate the following CAROL search inquiry related to Aviation investigations:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are NTSB reports public record?

Yes, the reports are filed and can be searched by the public.

What is Carol query?

CAROL is the “Case Analysis and Reporting Online” search engine for NTSB reports.

Where can I read NTSB reports?

CAROL (ntsb.gov)

How do I find plane damage history?

Generally, one can obtain accident and incident history from private companies for a fee. AOPA provides a resource for its members through Aero-Space Reports. AIC and other title companies also offer accident and incident history searches for a fee. The information comes from both the NTSB CAROL database and the FAA Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing database. However, one can also search on NTSB CAROL for the aircraft tail number/registration number and investigate accident and incident history. These reports do not include the reports of repairs or what damage occurred to the aircraft specifically – for that, one needs to investigate the aircraft’s logbooks.

How long does an NTSB report take?

NTSB reports take considerable time to go from “preliminary” to “final” reporting. While the investigation may occur close to the time of the accident/incident, some times it can take 2 years to finalize the reporting or longer when the docket is released to the public.

Conclusion

The guide to using the query search tools is here: https://www.ntsb.gov/Documents/CAROL-Guide.pdf It appears to be a more robust option for our search of the reports, including searching for keywords in the narratives and recommendations, which may prove quite useful in aviation accident cases.

Overall, there are many ways to search CAROL for information, data, and aviation related recommendations. There is a lot of information promulgated by the NTSB and FAA that one might not readily appreciate is available, but using these tips should help with search inquiries that will yield the most interesting and the most relevant results.