Probe into Ryanair's April series of possible Stansted fog rule breaches hits buffer as Irish aviation safety agency delays response

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UK CAA awaits response from Irish Aviation Authority

Seven months after full details of alleged breaches of safety regulations by Irish-registered aircraft operating into London Stansted airport were passed to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the agency says it has not yet completed its investigation nor taken any action.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority, which confirms it passed the details of the alleged events to the IAA, says it would normally have expected an outcome by now.

The issue under investigation is regulatory: a number of landings on 24 April 2006 at Stansted airport were allegedly carried out when it was too foggy for pilots to have complied with their company minimum descent height and runway visual range (RVR) criteria.

At the time Stansted's weather minima were higher that normal because the airport operator BAA was carrying out maintenance on the runway lighting, so reduced lighting was available despite the poor visibility. The CAA says this information was made available to airlines and crews via the notices to airmen (NOTAMS) system and by Stansted air traffic control.

Investigators have to decide whether - if minima were breached - it happened because pilots ignored the revised minima or were simply unaware of them. Aircraft from some other airlines diverted to alternate airports. The landing aircraft involved were Ryanair Boeing 737-800s, the IAA confirms. The carrier's chief pilot Capt Ray Conway says that if there were any breaches of RVR minima it was unintentional on the part of the pilots. Stansted's first NOTAM on the subject did not emphasise that the runway lighting downgrade affected the RVR minima, according to Conway.

Because the IAA is responsible for the regulation and safety oversight of Irish-registered aircraft - even if they are operating overseas - the CAA says that after it had ascertained that the airport had complied with all the safety regulations pertinent to the situation, it handed details of the aircraft operations to the IAA for further action. The IAA says it has almost finished its investigation, but has not yet sent the draft to Ryanair for its response. Conway comments that he doubts this will become a public document because it is not an accident or incident report.