It seems that the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit’s answer to aviation people who break rules is to make more rules. Doesn’t that just create more opportunities for habitual rulebreakers to break more rules?
The Irish never struck me as a race who are in love with rules. In fact my many Irish friends are more likely than my British ones to be inventive and flexible in their interpretation of regulations.
One of my favourite examples of this is how Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary, faced like his fellow Dubliners with that beautiful city’s appalling traffic, famously got himself licenced as a taxi driver so he could use the bus lanes.
Okay so that’s rule avoidance rather than rulebreaking, but it’s creative.
The AAIU recommendation is about tightening up regulations surrounding the charter sector of general aviation - effectively the air taxis, whether fixed or rotary wing - but also those who own aircraft that they either fly themselves or hire somebody to fly for them.
The latter sector, especially, is populated by people who are immensely independently minded and value the ability to travel according to their own agenda, not somebody else’s timetable. Among those will be some who will also knowingly break aviation regulations for their own convenience, or be creative in their interpretation of them. Whipping this lot into line is about policing safety, not giving them more rules to ignore.
The GA charter sector in Europe generally obeys rules. The fact that its average safety performance is well below the high standards set by the corporate GA sector is more a reflection of the fact that it encompasses a more diverse range of equipment and type of operation and is, in some cases, inclined to hire people with lower levels of experience than the corporate sector - but still without breaking any rules.
If the Irish Aviation Authority wants to see higher safety standards in the many sectors of GA in its own back yard, it should spend more time on propagating safety awareness, and motivating operators to adopt high standards, not appealing to the European Aviation Safety Agency to solve their problems by waving a regulatory wand in Cologne.
Motivate how? Like President Roosevelt said: speak softly but carry a big stick.