The Flight Safety Foundation and the European Regions Airline Association are supporting the creation of regional multinational, independent air accident investigation boards.

This would include support for a unified European air accident investigation board, but they reject the recent proposal by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers for a network of national accident investigation agencies for Europe, on the grounds that it would not work.

Closely tied in with this resolution, announced at the 15 March European Aviation Safety Seminar in Lisbon, is the FSF's campaign to increase global pressure, via the International Civil Aviation Organisation, for action to protect the confidentiality of individuals who file incident reports.

This is to protect individuals from criminal prosecution, and to influence state judiciaries from the increasing tendency to initiate criminal proceedings automatically in the event of an air accident. This subject will be up for discussion at the ICAO High Level Safety Conference in Montreal starting on 29 March.

In the event of a criminal prosecution, the FSF says that individuals "should have the right to remain silent and not co-operate if they are at risk of loss of personal liberty by having their statements used in criminal prosecutions".

Prosecution could immobilise safety advances and cripple accident investigations, and illustrates how, at present, the judiciary and accident investigators are at cross purposes.

The FSF has called for "a multidisciplinary task force of legal experts from the aviation industry, law enforcement, judicial authorities, and the public to achieve "a balanced approach that is supportive of blameless reporting and sharing of critical aviation safety information, and the proper administration of justice."

The FSF is also calling upon governments worldwide to begin pooling accident investigation resources, expertise, and training to enable the formation of authorised multinational, independent air accident investigation boards.

At present, air accident investigation expertise is concentrated in the aircraft manufacturing countries, and there is a severe dearth of it elsewhere. Independent, legally empowered multinational investigators, such as the kind of European accidens investigation board that the FSF and the ERA would like to see, could also reduce the influence of politics in accident investigation.

The FSF is also calling for more transparency in the investigatory process, because the lack of it drives frustrated relatives of accident victims to press for criminal redress.

The FSF's legal adviser Kenneth Quinn says: "Lack of individual discovery, coupled with disparate victims' assistance, leaves loved ones frustrated and turning to prosecutors and judges to search for the truth and ensure accountability."

The FSF listed the weaknesses in the current global and European investigation systems: lack of uniform national investigating capacity; tensions between safety investigations and judicial authorities; unclear role of the European Aviation Safety Agency in safety investigations; weakness in implementation of safety recommendations; and lack of common standards on passenger manifest processes and family assistance.

Source: Flight International