Organisation decries lack of protection for airline data

The increasing threat of litigation against aviation professionals and organisations is forcing the International Civil Aviation Organisation to examine how it can counteract the resulting negative effects on safety.

Unless the international community can be persuaded to agree on a legal approach that respects the purpose for which safety data is collected, systems for monitoring airlines' safety will be compromised, with confidential reporting systems killed off completely, says the organisation's flight safety co-ordinator, Dan Maurino.

The International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations and the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations say the situation causes their members heightened professional stress, stemming from the evidence that unintentional mistakes have frequently led to the criminal prosecution of pilots and controllers even if the courts have subsequently found them not guilty or a conviction has later been quashed on appeal.

ICAO's standards for accident investigations state their sole purpose is to establish a cause and a future remedy, not to establish guilt or innocence of the parties to it. The problem is that the legal systems in many ICAO treaty signatory states use facts from the report and, without establishing legal proof of guilt independently, advance prosecutions on the basis of it.

One concern is that information derived from increasingly used modern flight-data monitoring and internal reporting systems – intended purely to benefit safety by enabling operations quality control – cannot be adequately protected under existing laws and treaties.

If an incident occurs, lawyers with unfettered access to operations data can use it in lieu of collecting evidence on the incident under investigation.

Speaking at last week's Flight Safety Foundation European aviation safety seminar in Warsaw, Poland, Maurino said he hopes that recommendations for action will be on the agenda for the assembly in 2007.

IFATCA president Marc Baumgartner says the whole industry needs to unite to form a sufficiently powerful lobby group to gain political recognition of the issue as having a powerfully negative influence on safety, as well as being inherently unjust.


Source: Flight International