Bucharest, Romania, March 13, 2008 — A panel of aviation safety specialists meeting here reached a general agreement that the confidentiality of many kinds of aviation data is vital if that information is to be used to discover and correct problems in the world aviation system.
The panel discussion on the trend toward subjecting accidents to criminal investigation and judicial proceedings highlighted the recently concluded 20th annual Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) European Aviation Safety Seminar and meeting of the European Regions Airline Association in Bucharest, Romania.
“The balance has tilted away from confidentiality,” said a panelist. “I hope we can do something positive to correct it.” Panelists acknowledged, however, that accident and incident data cannot be a closed system totally walled off from the public and the law.
Members of the panel included Simon Foreman and Daniel Soulez Larivière of Soulez Larivière & Associés; Gerard Forlin, a barrister based in England; Sean Gates, senior partner, Gates and Partners; Robert MacIntosh, chief advisor, international affairs, U.S. National Transportation Safety Board; Capt. Andreas Mateou, head of flight safety, Cyprus Airways; and Roderick van Dam, director of legal services, Eurocontrol. The panel was moderated by Kenneth Quinn of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
The panel noted that while in the past prosecutors or attorneys might seek to blame pilots or controllers in the aftermath of an accident, they now tend to look to the responsibility of a company’s management and its safety diligence. As one speaker put it: “The police now feel that the main scene of the crime is the head office.” Aviation operators are not without resources, another said. A clear showing that they have a safety management system in place and incident trends are being proactively dealt with is a strongly mitigating circumstance following an accident. “You must show that you are actively managing risks all the time,” one panelist said.
“This was an exciting part of a very successful EASS,” said William R. Voss, president and chief executive officer of FSF. “More than 200 people left Bucharest with additional information and tools that they can use to spread the safety lessons from this seminar worldwide.”
The Flight Safety Foundation journal AeroSafety World, March 2008, includes a cover story on criminalization of aviation accident investigation “Deterring Criminalization.”
Flight Safety Foundation is an independent, nonprofit, international organization engaged in research, auditing, education, advocacy and publishing to improve aviation safety. The Foundation’s mission is to pursue the continuous improvement of global aviation safety and the prevention of accidents. www.flightsafety.org
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