Banning airlines might take the heat off politicians, but it is a weak response to a gigantic challenge and is unlikely to achieve much
Politics and safety are rarely comfortable bedfellows, and the imminent creation of so-called airline blacklists in
Quite what this is all supposed to achieve is not yet clear, and history suggests blacklists are a lazy response to a gigantic challenge.
Politically it will take some of the heat off European transport ministers, who feel the need to be seen to do something in the wake of the extraordinary cluster of accidents over the last four weeks.
Consider the history: the push for blacklists began following the 1996 loss of a Boeing 757 operated by Birgenair of Turkey in which around 180 German tourists died.
Despite strong, but short-lived, German political pressure in
In January 2004 a large number of French tourists died when a Boeing 737 of Egyptian carrier Flash Airlines was lost and questions were raised about the airline’s record. It emerged that
At the same time, in response to a parliamentary question, the
The issue resurfaced this year when a Dutch safety crackdown resulted in the
All went quiet, and then
It will be fascinating to see which carriers are on the list. Will they include airlines from nations with intimate political links to
In both cases there seems to be no evidence that the French authorities could have had much of a view one way or the other about those carriers before the accidents.
The same problem confronts any other European nations contemplating public blacklists, and indeed the EC. Just how are they supposed to know about the level of safety in the numerous small airlines that routinely visit their airports? Ramp inspections of individual aircraft are an entirely inadequate tool for making any serious assessment.
There are better alternatives. The US International Aviation Safety Assessment programme, aimed at assessing and assisting other nations rather than airlines, has been hugely beneficial. The International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety Audit of operators is slowly having an influence.
The non-specialist public, however, understandably wants unsafe airlines to be banned so that it does not have to make its own mind up about the safety of carriers.
That is not achievable except in the simplistic sense of regulatory action against the most egregious offenders.
What the EC can do, if it has the will, is join the
Source: Flight International