Europe's Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) programme is reducing the number of badly maintained aircraft flying into European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) countries, the organisation says.

"You can see progress in the figures," ECAC's head office reveals. Cargo operators and aircraft manufactured in the former Soviet Union are the most frequent offenders, says a new Dutch report on its 1999 SAFA checks.

ECAC says that SAFA ramp check figures for all its 36 member states will be published in its annual report in two weeks, adding that until then it is unable to elaborate. SAFA is a programme set up three years ago to empower ECAC states to carry out ramp checks on incoming aircraft.

Meanwhile, 162 SAFA ramp inspections carried out last year at Dutch airports reveal that chartered cargo aircraft are by far the worst offenders, with passenger airlines from Eastern European, CIS and African nations also figuring frequently among those which were grounded until faults could be rectified. The worst repeat offenders with Category 3 (serious) defects were airlines from Russia, followed by Bulgaria and Moldavia, which are ECAC member states. The Dutch Civil Aviation Authority reports that 40% of aircraft checked were defective according to International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, and that 20% had Category 3 defects.

Inspectors were particularly surprised by the number of cases of bad pre-flight preparation, including fuel planning, route planning and load calculation.

Although the Dutch report, which has been submitted to parliament, has been published in detail, the UK's Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR) says that "it is not currently our policy to publish individual results of checks carried out under SAFA."

The results, however, are supplied to ECAC, the DETR says.

Source: Flight International