Anger at jail terms for controllers and managers found guilty of negligence and manslaughter over fatal crash
Prison sentences imposed on a Milan Linate airport air traffic controller and three managers in a court case arising from the fatal collision in October 2001 have drawn condemnation from the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA).
IFATCA says European standards for airports are not being enforced, and calls on European authorities "to ensure that member states transpose and implement quickly the Directive 2003/42/EC on occurrence reporting in civil aviation into national laws [and] to recommend a study evaluating the penal liability of air traffic controllers in Europe".
According to the official accident report, the high-speed collision in fog between a Scandinavian Airlines' (SAS) Boeing MD-87 and a private Cessna Citation CJ2 occurred because the CJ2 was on the wrong taxiway and then crossed the active runway without permission. All 114 people on the two aircraft died, as did four in an building hit by burning wreckage.
Prison sentences have never before been handed down in Italy as a result of an aviation accident, but four defendants in this case were judged guilty of negligence and manslaughter. They have been ordered to pay court costs, to pay compensation to the victims' families, and the court has called for them to be disqualified for life from holding public office. This has been reported in Italy as the heaviest penalty ever awarded in an industrial accident case.
Linate tower controller Paolo Zucchetti, and former Linate airport director Vincenzo Fusco, were sentenced to eight years imprisonment; Francesco Federico, formerly responsible for Linate and Malpensa airports at Italy's National Agency for Civil Aviation (ENAC), and Sandro Gualano, the former managing director of Italy's air traffic services provider ENAV, both received six and a half year sentences. The controller's sentence was more than twice that recommended by the prosecutor. Fusco received the recommended sentence, but Federico and Gualano received less. All four have appealed against their convictions and will remain free until their appeals are heard.
The defence argues that the conviction of the controller is unjustified because the prosecution case against him rested on two points: that Linate should have had a surface movement radar but did not, and that the controller did not carry out his job properly. The defence case is that if surface movement radar was judged essential but was not available to the controller, he cannot be convicted.
DAVID LEARMOUNT / LONDON & PINO MODOLA / GENOA