CAPELLE a/d IJSSEL, The Netherlands – When Antonio Tajani, the new EU transport commissioner, addressed the European Parliament’s Transport Committee in September, he stated that aviation safety is an “absolute priority” for him as “on safety, no compromise is possible.” With European elections on the horizon, such comments are intended to gain voters trust. Yet away from the politics, the facts point to a different reality.

In September 2007, AEI issued a warning that European air safety could be compromised if the EU was not prepared to promptly tackle the 1600 plus audit findings at European Authorities raised by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as part of their oversight of European Aviation. EU officials refused to confirm or deny the figures claiming that releasing such information into the public domain could jeopardize any potential legal proceedings against countries who fail to meet the required standards.

Yet despite the EU’s apparent no compromise approach to air safety, not one single National Aviation Authority is facing legal proceedings. Very worrying indeed once one examines the figures:

(2005) 675 findings related to airworthiness
(2006) 833 findings related to airworthiness
(2007) 521 findings related to airworthiness

269 of these are classed as findings “which if not corrected promptly, raise safety concerns” while the issue of aircraft engineer maintenance licenses brought this statement “Maintenance Licenses remains an open issue raising standardization concerns and in some cases even safety concerns.”

Unfortunately, we have been here before. The Helios accident investigation detailed incompetence by the regulating authorities with damning criticisms such as: “inadequate responses to findings documented in numerous audits” or “ineffectiveness of international aviation authorities to enforce implementation of corrective action plans after relevant audits.”

The Helios report also contained a specific recommendation to prevent a repeat accident: “action plans are to be implemented in the shortest possible time; and impose the necessary pressure once international obligations and standards are not being met by the authorities.”

The Standardization reports clearly highlight that European Air Safety is not the absolute priority the EU claims it to be.

AEI says enough politics. It is now time for the EU to get its act together. Without urgent “no compromise” measures, it is only a question of time before the next avoidable accident.