David Learmount/LONDON

EUROPE IS PREPARING to impose sanctions on nations which fail to exercise effective air-transport safety supervision. The UK Department of Transport (DTp) has confirmed that the 31-nation European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) is looking at the possibility of operational sanctions against countries.

The action follows an unprecedented move by the US Federal Aviation Adminstration in 1994, when it prevented airlines from nine states, including Gambia, Ghana and Uruguay from operating into the USA. ECAC nations voiced approval for such measures, but found that they did not have a procedure for agreeing similar Europe-wide action.

Under the chairmanship of the Danish director-general of civil aviation, Val Eggers, the ECAC is "exploring the possibilities" of operational sanctions, the DTp confirms. The issue is to be discussed at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) triennial assembly in September.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority's safety-regulation department, under pressure to monitor more closely foreign- registered airliners chartered or leased by UK companies, reveals that the ECAC proposes setting up an inspection team, possibly using the European Joint Aviation Authorities structure, to check safety-standards surveillance provision in other countries, and to keep a database of findings.

ICAO has declared that it intends to act to bring into line any member nations which are failing to meet their safety-surveillance obligations as signatories to the Chicago Convention. Proposed ICAO action would take the form of an inspection team which will publish its findings. This would be followed up by ICAO offers of expertise, and possible financial assistance, rather than sanctions.

Source: Flight International