European Pilots Attack EU on Accident Prevention

 - June 17, 2013, 1:35 PM

“A new informal agreement” by European transport ministers has “watered down” a proposal by the European Commission for better prevention of aviation incidents and accidents, according to a June 10 statement issued by the European Cockpit Association (ECA). The pilot professional association said key issues altered include provisions for non-punitive mandatory and voluntary reporting, as well as the obligations of EU member states to ensure adequate safety oversight.

“The best approach to prevent accidents is one that encourages learning from mistakes,” said ECA president Nico Voorbach. “To do this, pilots, air traffic controllers and all other safety professionals must be able to talk openly about safety incidents, mishaps or honest mistakes in a confidential environment, one that neither entails [company] reprisals nor leads to unfounded legal prosecution.” Voorbach said, “Yet EU transport ministers are weakening the provisions for such reporting within a confidential, ‘Just Culture’ environment.”

The ministers are also taking a step back on the voluntary reporting of incidents, a trust-based system that is essential to encourage reporting beyond the legal minimums, according to Alexis Brathwaite, president of the International Federation of Air Traffic Control Associations (Ifatca). “Some changes seem to be motivated by the desire to reduce the costs that the proposed reporting and analysis requirements will entail,” said ECA secretary general Philip von Schöppenthau. “Such a focus on costs, however, will not help improve aviation safety.”

The ECA represents more than 38,000 European pilots from national associations in 37 European states.