Jailing of the Tuninter ATR 72 ditching crew is a disgrace

Tuninter ditching.jpeg

The International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) is angry about the jailing in Italy of the Tunisian crew of the ATR 72 that ditched in August 2005. And so am I.

The Italian court also jailed seven Tuninter managers including execs and various maintenance staff. None of them were in court and I’m not clear what the likelihood is of their serving their sentences.

Obviously I wasn’t in court either and I don’t know what the evidence was against the ground staff. But it’s clear that the pilots were convicted in large part because of their alleged mishandling of the situation, and that much was made of their alleged praying when they should have been doing other things.

As it happens the CVR recording was leaked herelong ago (which alone raises enough questions about the Italianauthorities). Pilots were infuriated by that, but it has had the effectof letting everyone judge the Italian court verdict. And I’d suggest isclearly nonsense.

The transcript is also available in several places including here,which I’ve chosen because it’s apparently a version that has beenfinally translated by a Tunisian and I’m hoping (might be wrong) willbe accurate.

Allowing for cultural differences, including somemuttered prayers going on – surprise, surprise – these guys were doingwhat they were supposed to be doing. Unsurprisingly so since they were,like all pilots in these circumstances, at physical risk themselves.

Didthey do as good as a job as could be done? Hard to say, although asthey’d run out of fuel for reasons for which they were not to blame, itdidn’t matter in the end.

Regardless, the idea of a jail sentence of any duration, let alone ten years, is absurd. And for well-documented reasons will have a chilling effect on flight safety.

Belowis the text of the report by Italian press agency ANSA on the courthearing. I’ve linked to it above. but I’m posting it in case it’sremoved later.

Seven convicted for 2005 ATR crash
Sentences considered unprecedented
 (ANSA) – Palermo, March 23 – Seven people were convicted here on Monday for their responsibility in the August 2005 crash of a Tunisian Tuninter ATR 72 airliner off the Sicilian coast which cost the lives of 16 people.

The judge, who acquitted two defendants, also handed down sentences totalling 62 years All nine defendants were Tunisian and included the plane’s pilot and co-pilot and Tuninter top brass, all of whom were accused of multiple manslaughter and causing a disaster.

”This was an unprecedented sentence but we have always maintained that it was an unprecedented incident,” observed Niky Persico, a lawyer for one of the victims.

”Never before in the history of aviation disasters has there been such a chain of events and counter events,” the lawyer added.

Pilot Chafik Gharby and copilot Ali Kebaier each received 10-year sentences.

Tuninter Director General Moncef Zouari and technical chief Zoueir Chetouane were sentenced to nine years while eight-year sentences were handed down to the budget airline’s head of maintenance, Zouehir Siala, chief mechanic Chaed Nebil and maintenance squad leader Rhouma Bel Haj.

Two members of the airline maintenance crew were acquitted.

None of the defendants were in court for the sentencing and a lawyer for Tuninter said they will appeal Monday’s sentence.

”Trials like these are always difficult. We did our job but in cases like this the atmosphere in court can play a big role,” the lawyer observed.

Tuninter ATR-72 was on a flight from the southeasternItalian city of Bari to the Tunisian resort island of Djerbawhen both its engines cut off as it approached Sicily on August 6, 2005.

The plane was carrying 34 holidaymakers and a crew offive and thanks to the ability of the pilot the plane made acrash landing in the sea which allowed 23 people to survive.

Italy’s national agency for air transport safety(ANSV) concluded in September 2007 that the ATR 72 crashedbecause the twin-engine turboprop aircraft did not take onsufficient fuel before leaving Bari because of a faulty fuelgage.

Prosecutors in Palermo, who carried out a parallelprobe into the crash, from the start suspected that theplane had run out of fuel.

According to the ANSV report, the day before the August 6 crash the fuel gage was replaced in Tunisia with one designed for an ATR-42 model, which is similar to the ATR-72 but has smaller fuel tanks.

The same conclusions were reached by the aircraft’sItalo-French manufacturer.

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4 Responses to Jailing of the Tuninter ATR 72 ditching crew is a disgrace

  1. James March 26, 2009 at 4:31 am #

    I never seen a judgment like this one in a case of air plane crash ! The Italian judge is realy crazy, may be he was thinking he was judging a mafia header :P !

  2. Alan March 31, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    Accountability – yes, scapegoated – no. People are paid for the jobs they do but emergencies by definition aren’t always predictable and how any person handled them at the time was at least as good as anyone else unfortunat enough to find themselves in that situation. It took an accident enquiry months to find that, theoretically, the aircraft may have made Palermo when the crew had a few minutes. Hindsight is 20/20 vision.
    If anyone can put his hand on his heart and call this ‘justice’, particularly in terms of the crew, then that is one warped sense of justice.

    What was said about ATC’s contribution?

  3. A Maine Pilot January 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    What nonsense./
    That these pilots are indicted and given jail sentence while “Sully” becomes a hero is insane. They ditched the plane the best they could, saved 2/3 of the passengers, and are tried for some b.s. reason in Italy. We need to boycott ITALY for travel until they reverse this foolish decision.

  4. Pilot August 6, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    The fuel gauge is no excuse. Basic fuel management, fuel taken on minus fuel burned using standard calculations. These pilots hold much responsibility here, although the jail was way excessive just the same.

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