David joined the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in 1972 after serving an apprenticeship with Hawker Siddeley Aviation. There he worked on Harrier development and early Hawk wind tunnel testing – it was during this time he obtained his degree from Kingston Polytechnic.
At AAIB, his pioneering work in examining the human factors that influence the performance of engineering personnel has informed new regulations, training and ways of improving aircraft maintenance. David was awarded Honorary Doctor of Engineering in 1999, recognising more than 25 years' work in the field of international aircraft accident investigation. He served the AAIB for more than 30 years, the last five as the UK Chief Inspector of Air Accidents, until his retirement in 2010.
He is a Trustee of CHIRP – the charitable UK Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation – which provides a totally independent, confidential reporting system for individuals in the aviation industry. He also chairs the UK Maintenance Error Management Systems group of industry contributors sharing information to better understand maintenance error, is President of the European Society of Air Safety Investigators and is a Visiting Professor at Cranfield University.
"Until I joined the aeronautical engineering course at Kingston Polytechnic, courtesy of an apprenticeship with local Hawker Siddeley Aviation, my academic achievements had failed to impress; 'could do better' was a common assessment. The mix of theoretical and practical training across a broad range of technical topics grabbed my attention. My academic achievements improved to meet and even exceed some expectations. Graduation created career opportunities which culminated in my appointment to UK Chief Inspector of Air Accidents."