European aviation hangs whistleblowers out to dry
The people most likely to have seen the need to address safety issues with the aircraft you are about to board, are the aircraft engineers.
The people most likely to have seen the need to address safety issues with the aircraft you are about to board, are the aircraft engineers. But more often than not, those who do report safety violations are subject to dire consequences.
During Aircraft Engineers International’s (AEI) 38th Annual Congress in Hamburg, Germany, one of Europe’s leading regulators refused to offer unequivocal support for those who do brave the consequences and report. Unfortunately, this sort of attitude is widespread despite the European Commission introducing several directives designed to promote the collection of safety-related data while protecting the reporter. AEI, therefore, urges all European regulators to revisit these directives and remind themselves of their responsibilities.
EC Directives 216/2008 and 2003/42 not only require the protecting of the reporter but actually make the reporting of unsafe activities mandatory as it is clearly in the public interest to protect them from such activities. Therefore, both lawmakers and regulators must work together to ensure the aviation community is free to highlight malpractice without having to fear personal consequences.
To assist in this task, AEI will set out a roadmap of actions on how to safeguard aircraft maintenance in the future by prioritizing the main areas of risk, highlighting weak regulations, and those ignored by both airlines and regulators. Regulators must also place more distance between themselves and the financial concerns of keeping an airline viable. Regulators are there to regulate safety on the public’s behalf and as such must ensure safety remains paramount. Commercially viable but unsafe airlines are not an acceptable option.
Therefore, pressure on engineers to “shut up and be quiet” will no longer be tolerated. AEI wishes to work in partnership with both regulators and the industry to maintain the highest levels of safety. The shooting of any messenger is short sighted and not in the public interest and, therefore, doesn’t have a place in the 21st century. The European Transport Directorate may wish to seek improvements in the protection of reporters within some of the current regulations.
In addition, AEI in accordance with current European freedom of information regulations, recently requested documents from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) relating to the audit and approval of foreign maintenance organizations. During Congress, shocking video evidence of safety violations at these EASA-approved facilities was presented. The low-cost maintenance organizations concerned remain fully operational, and EASA has not responded to the freedom of information requests within the prescribed 15 working days.
The lack of action from all involved regulatory authorities means that the alleged safety violations may still be ongoing, which ultimately could cost lives. AEI considers this behavior unacceptable and urges both intervention and the releasing of the requested documents. Unfortunately, this is not the first time EASA has refused to release documents, which may potentially highlight a lack of will to directly confront safety violations.
The EASA mission statement is “to promote the highest common standards of safety and environmental protection in civil aviation in Europe and worldwide.”
Delegates attending congress made it clear to AEI that they consider it’s time to deliver.