Recent aviation accidents have added impetus to plans to ban ‘unsafe’ aircraft from European airports

The European Commission hopes plans for a pan-European list of unsafe aircraft will receive added impetus after recent accidents in European Union countries.

At the beginning of the year the EC launched its proposal for a “blacklist” of unsafe aircraft similar to the roster of ships banned from EU ports, first published in 2003. The maritime list was drawn up as a response to two accidents in 2002 involving unseaworthy ships, the Prestige and the Erika. The EC hopes the deadlock in talks about the aviation list can be broken by public pressure on governments following recent accidents.

Some countries such as the Netherlands and the UK have blacklists, which are not shared with other countries. At present all aircraft safety data is held by national airworthiness authorities and there is little commonality in data format, risk analysis and banned practices between countries. A source at the EC’s transport directorate general says the original proposal to harmonise the data format and then for the EC to collate the information and publish a list had been “watered down” to accommodate the concerns of more conservative national authorities. The bill has now been passed on to the European Parliament, where tougher clauses can be reintroduced, says the source.

Two of the recent fatal crashes have involved foreign-registered aircraft flying into EU airports – the Tuninter ATR 72 accident near Sicily’s Palermo airport in Italy and the West Caribbean Airways Boeing MD-82 that crashed en route to the French département of Martinique in the Caribbean.

The profile of air safety has also been raised by the fatal crash of a Helios Airways 737-300 flying from new EU entrant Cyprus to Greece and the overrun of an Air France Airbus A340 in Toronto, which has been covered extensively in the French media.

EC transport commissioner Jacques Barrot was quoted in the French press last week as saying the proposal will definitely lead to the creation of a blacklist.

The EC says: “Following discussion by the [transport ministers] Council and European Parliament, the Commission could be led to assist in establishing common criteria for the identification of such companies.” However, there is uncertainty as to whether the EC or its European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would compile the list, says the EC source.

Last week the EC outlined measures to strengthen air safety, including extending EASA competence into regulating non-EU operators, in which it aims to emulate the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 129 rules.

The EC is also “considering strengthening the control mechanisms for aircraft from third countries using European airports, which have been put in place by the safety assessment of foreign aircraft directive”. EASA would co-ordinate inspection activities and manage alert systems.


Source: Flight International