States are chronically under-resourcing the aviation safety oversight functions of their national aviation authorities (NAA), particularly in the European and North Atlantic region, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
ICAO's safety officer at its Paris regional office, Nicolas Rallo, told the Flight Safety Foundation European Aviation Safety Seminar in Dublin that this lack of resources at NAA level was discovered through its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme.
The cause, according to ICAO, appears to be government "austerity measures", and it fears the under-resourcing could become even more severe, because many of the audits that revealed the deficits had been carried out before reactions to the 2008 start of the global economic crisis had begun to kick in.
USOAP reports indicate a "lack of effective [safety procedures] implementation" (LEI) globally in 42% of states, and in 40% of European and North Atlantic (Eur/NAT) countries, with this directly attributable to lack of financial resources. LEI caused by a lack of human resources are an even greater problem, with 76% of states affected globally, but in the Eur/NAT region it is even worse at 78%. Rallo said this is a combination of posts not being filled, or posts being staffed by people unqualified for the work.
"Some governments have taken austerity measures through legislative means for all state bodies no matter what their function or funding mechanism," said Rallo, adding that "causes are often at high political levels, and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the consequences and a lack of political will".
A specific ICAO fear for the future is that as safety management systems become mandatory in the Eur/NAT region and elsewhere, governments may start to delegate industry monitoring and oversight to the industry itself, and to reduce yet further the regulatory oversight and checking resources.