By David Learmount in London

A clash between judicial and technical investigations after aviation accidents in France has produced a “dysfunctional” system that harms the interests of industry and accident victims alike, says the French Air and Space Academy (ANAE).

“The way of conducting civil aviation investigations following accidents [in France] should be revised,” says the academy. Highlighting the fact that the criminal court hearings relating to an Air Inter Airbus A320 accident near Strasbourg in January 1992 are only now being held, the ANAE says this is stifling the effectiveness of technical and administrative investigations designed to further safety.

Air Inter no longer exists as an individual carrier, having been absorbed by Air France, and executives from Airbus and the French national aviation authority (DGAC) have been brought out of retirement to face the court.

The ANAE says it is also studying the ongoing legal investigation into the Air France Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde crash near Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in 2000, and the judicial case being prepared over the Flash Airlines Boeing 737 crash near Sharm el-Sheikh, which involved an Egyptian charter airline that was carrying French tourists.

An aviation accident generates two separate investigations that should be complementary, says the ANAE: a legal investigation to establish responsibility, and whether there has been a “misdemeanour”; and an administrative investigation that aims to determine “the causes of the accident and draw conclusions needed to devise ways of improving flight safety”.

The ANAE report says: “These two perspectives on the same accident often seem, in practice, to be in competition, interfering with, rather than complementing each other. Instead they should aim to provide mutual support, while respecting their different respective objectives”.

The Toulouse-headquartered ANAE was established in 1983 on the initiative of former test pilot André Turcat – who was at the controls when Concorde took off for the first time in 1969 – and under the patronage of the ministries of industry and research, defence, education and transport. It aims to “promote scientific, technical, industrial and cultural activities in the sectors of air and space”.

Source: Flight International