Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of Sherlock Holmes books, died 85 years ago today. Who are IAF’s investigators and how do they solve its mysteries? “It usually begins with a pile of fragments”
128 years have passed since the publication of the first book describing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. More than a 100 later and 85 years after the passing of their renowned author, Sherlock Holmes books are alive and kicking.
The stories are of course fictional, but Sherlock’s accurate and sharp investigative capabilities serve genuine investigators in very real situations. The IAF employs accidents and missing person investigators who use tools familiar to Sherlock Holmes’s fans to solve cases inside the IAF.
“Every investigation begins with a pile of fragments. You don’t know where to start, or where the investigation will take you”, says Lt. Col. Yotam, in charge of aerial accidents investigation. “Our job is to look further and discover the consequences behind unclear incidents in the force”.
Completing the Puzzle
Sherlock Holmes had an exceptional sense of observation and inference capabilities which allowed him to reach amazing conclusions. Much like him, IAF investigators work diligently to grasp the bigger picture and the meaning of the clues in front of them. “The world of investigation is systematic: you must identify the clues and assemble them like a puzzle. You might have 50 clues, but only two of them relevant”, explains Lt. Col. Yotam.
In 2013, An F-16I “Sufa” fighter jet crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. “We searched for the jet’s fragments 300 meters deep in the sea and we had to decide which ones to take out to land for observation. With previously collected clues, we were able to choose the required parts”.
“Collecting a testimony is fine art”
Besides fragments and evidences, the investigators also collect testimonies. Unlike criminal investigators, IAF’s investigators’ object is not prosecuting criminals, but improving the organization. “We maintain complete confidentiality. We always assume that the person acted in a way he thought is best”.
During the questioning process, the investigator must pay attention to each and every word being said, the way of speaking and the point from which the person started to tell his story. “Collecting a testimony is fine art. Each word can lead you to the next clue”, says Lt. Col. Yotam. “For example, when a person speaks in the plural, we can deduct that he has experienced failure. However, when he presents the story in the singular, it indicates that he is comfortable with the story and takes responsibility. These are nuances one must learn to understand”.
Preventing the Next Accident
After collecting all evidence and completing the picture, it seems that the process has reached its end, but Lt. col. Yotam explains that this is merely the beginning.
“After figuring out what happened, we need to understand the motive and why were the decisions leading to the incident taken. All in order provide recommendations on how to prevent a similar incident in the future”.
Investigations usually generate real changes in the force, changes that could save lives. “In the past, pilots would practice ‘Dogfights’ with very little rules and restrictions – whoever strikes, wins”, says Lt. Col. Yotam. “Following a fatal accident which caused the death of two pilots, it was decided to change regulations in the subject and to determine clear rules for action. The investigator is a part of the organization’s hilling process”.