In both civil and criminal trials, the use of an expert witness can make the difference between prevailing at trial or losing for either party. An aviation expert witness is most likely to be needed in a civil trial; however, his or her expertise could be used in a criminal prosecution as well. Although there is no specific path required to become an aviation expert witness, most aviation experts have a similar background. In order to become an aviation expert witness, most courts will look to the educational qualifications of the potential expert, as well as the experience and reputation in the field of the individual.
The qualifications necessary to become an aviation expert witness will vary by jurisdiction. The education background of an aviation expert will likewise vary somewhat by jurisdiction. As a rule, however, an expert in the field of aviation will be someone who has a background in aerospace engineering.
In the United States, there are a number of different degrees that may prepare someone to work in the aviation industry. Aviation maintenance and aviation management are two examples. In order to be considered an expert for purposes of testifying at trial, however, an individual will likely be expected to have a degree in aerospace engineering. In addition, while a bachelor's degree is a good start, in order to become an aviation expert witness, an individual should have a master's or doctorate level degree.
While the appropriate educational background is essential when qualifying as an expert witness, actual work experience in the field is usually of equal importance. The type of work experience a court will be looking for in order to qualify a potential witness as an expert witness will depend on the purpose of the testimony. For example, if the witness is planning to testify regarding the design of an airplane, then experience in aerospace design would be appropriate. If, on the other hand, a potential witness is needed to testify regarding air traffic control regulations, then work experience in that field would be expected.
The process for actually qualifying an expert to testify at trial will vary by jurisdiction. In the United States, a court will make an individual determination as to whether a potential witness may testify as an expert based on an examination of the witness prior to his or her testimony. As a rule, the court is looking for the right mix of education and work experience in the filed in which he or she plans to testify, as well as evidence that he or she has a reputation as an expert among his or her peers in the field.