Eurocontrol’s safety plan improves air traffic management in Europe

 - December 19, 2006, 10:15 AM

Europe’s skies have become safer since two landmark accidents, according to a new independent survey commissioned by air traffic management agency Eurocontrol. A December 4 report stated that the 42 European states surveyed have all “considerably strengthened” their air traffic management frameworks over the past four years. The survey measured improvements in safety management by determining whether each state has “a well defined mature framework for managing air traffic safety that meets the requirements set out in Eurocontrol’s safety regulatory requirements.”

The accidents that prompted Eurocontrol to implement a strategic safety action plan (SSAP) were the Oct. 8, 2001, accident in which a Cessna Citation II collided with an SAS MD-82 airliner on the runway at Milan Linate Airport and the July 1, 2002, incident in which a DHL Boeing 757 freighter collided in midair with a Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 jet over southern Germany. In both cases investigators determined that ATC agencies were at least partly at fault for the accidents.

While most problems identified in the SSAP have been addressed, Eurocontrol has conceded that incident reporting and data sharing have not progressed as well, largely due to institutional and legislative issues in the states concerned. The agency has said that Europe needs a “just culture” for incident reporting so that air traffic controllers can report safety issues without fear of facing disciplinary action or criminal charges. It also said that many states still need to train more safety personnel.