Better Protection for Reporters?

The improvement of aviation safety is based on the feed-back knowledge derived from a systematic accident/incident reporting and analysis. This allows the industry to learn from past occurrences to prevent future accidents and incidents. In that context, the European Commission is planning to revise two directives: the first one on Accident Incident Investigation (1994) and the second one on Occurrence Reporting (2003). Can the new legislation be more pragmatic, efficient and above all be geared toward safety?

One can be skeptical as these two directives did not work particularly well in the past; the latest one has not even been implemented yet in all the Member States. This revision potentially offers a unique opportunity to make both directives an effective tool for accident and incident prevention, among others by strengthening the principle of Just Culture.

As an important step toward a new safety aviation perspective, the European Community as defined and accepted the principle of "Just Culture" as being "A culture in which front line operators or others are not punished for actions, omissions or decisions taken by them that are commensurate with their experience and training, but where gross negligence, wilful violations and destructive acts are not tolerated". Against this background, it is obvious that the two directives need to be updated. The first one is too old to reflect this principle and the second one does not prevent the judicial authorities interfering in the investigation process.

In order to prepare the revision, the Commission has mandated an independent consultant to run an impact assessment on the revision of the two directives. However some concerns remain regarding the methodology applied and its potential impact on the study results. Four different options were proposed; the ECA and its Member Associations opted for 2 options: the first one consists in establishing central functions and the second one - as a longer term goal - to set up a Central European safety investigation body.

Given the importance of a better protection of pilots in accident/incident reporting, ECA has put this revision process as a top priority for the Flight Data Monitoring Working Group, which last met in September. The ECA has strong expectations in the improvement of aviation safety and it will urge the Commission and its Member States to put aviation safety as a top priority during the revision process.