Should we prefer a website over another when referencing external sources for providing a quick overview of an accident/incident?

If yes, which one should we prefer? Avherald? Wikipedia? Aviation-safety?


5 Answers 5


I don't know if there's a single answer here. The obvious (to me) alternatives all have pros and cons.

The official accident report will be complete and authoritative but also long and technical, although NTSB preliminary reports are usually very readable, even for non-aviation people. A final report can also take months or years to appear, and I don't know if all countries make them freely available online, which are big problems.

The Aviation Herald is widely referenced (and there may be other, similar sites). It has the advantage that something usually appears quite quickly and the articles keep strictly to the known facts. But it can be fairly technical and as far as I know it's a one-man project so there's some risk (presumably slight) that it could vanish. And the comments are rife with personal attacks and armchair speculation, but you can say that about most internet forums :-)

Wikipedia is accessible in the sense of being easy to read and most articles are linked to multiple sources. How accurate it is is another question, but if you really want an "overview" then it's usually a good place to start as long as you don't rely too heavily on it without checking other sources.

The fundamental problem is that there's always a relatively long time between an incident and a reliable, accurate (official) report, even just on the factual events. Human nature and media hype being what they are, something has to fill that gap and the only thing that can fill it is speculation (sometimes well-informed speculation, but it's still speculation).

So a good source should be updated constantly as more information becomes available and then finally be linked to the official report. Both Avherald and Wikipedia do that (more or less), albeit in very different ways, so I would use either - or even both - of them depending on the target audience. If a question is obviously from an 'uninformed' perspective then Wikipedia would probably be my first choice; if the questioner is more knowledgeable then Avherald would fit better.

  • $\begingroup$ +1, but "sometimes well-informed speculation, but it's still speculation" That could be said about (nearly) any knowledge. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2015 at 17:45

I'd choose the final report of the crash investigation first if available, and then Avherald or aviation-safety because they are quite knowledgeable. Wikipedia would be last on my list.

Wikipedia content often comes from people who have seen the Air Crash Investigation episode. Not that that is a bad source of information, but it is a video maker's interpretation and a little dramatization of the crash report, which is then again interpreted by some viewers who are generally not educated in aviation matters. If there is no final investigation report or Air Crash Investigation episode then most Wikipedia information will be coming from media reports which are usually 80% speculation or utter garbage.

  • $\begingroup$ Preferably accompanied by a link to the report hosted on the official website of the relevant authority (e.g. ntsb.gov for a US report). $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Mar 28, 2015 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ despite this answer having 1 more upvote I accepted Pondlife's answer as it is a little bit more extensive and detailed. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Mar 30, 2015 at 16:36

From my chat message:

AVHerald v Wiki: My gut tells me that the Herald gets more technical details correct but is more difficult for the non-trained, while Wiki seems to have info laid out more logically and more easily digestible for the layman.


I like wikipedia.

Most people will know about it and most technical terms will be linked to the relevant page.


Discussion of accidents before the official reports is explicitly off topic.

I would suggest Pprune->Rumours and News for that, and I personally find supposition about tragedies distasteful and not fitting for this great factual resource.

If the community agrees, then the only source should be the accident reports.

  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the confusion, I do not want to promote speculation. The question steams from my question of today, where a link to Germanwings' disaster was required to provide context. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Mar 24, 2015 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico Hi. I understand, and I think that question is valid because it does not speculate about the accident flight and, I believe that your question is also perfectly valid. I was just adding my thoughts into the discussion to help to solidify our communities stance. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Mar 24, 2015 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ I would point out that I know I have been carefully watching the slew of questions we all knew this accident would generate and so far at least, they've all been (fairly carefully) worded to generalize themselves to the 'norm' and not (yet) been specifically oriented to the crash itself. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 27, 2015 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ If you are choosing to downvote, please at least explain why. I can't see any reason for them and unless you tell me why, how can I be expected to know? $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Apr 14, 2015 at 12:39

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