Is Safety in Mortal Danger?

Whilst still mourning the victims of JKK 5022, it seems that we might need to add a new victim to the list. Safety is under threat. Whenever there is an accident, we can assume this phrase, but in this case, the affirmation goes beyond the actual meaning of the words.

Any improvement in Safety systems had the avoidance of accidents, along with the preservation of lives, as the highest goals to be achieved. From ICOA's Annex 13 to national law regarding the investigation of accidents, the objective of such investigation is always said to be the avoidance of future accidents. This aim of the legislation was said to be achieved by looking into the causes, not with prosecutors' eyes, but with those of somebody only interested in safety.

We, pilots, have always been told that we should accept being recorded, not only what we do while performing our tasks inside the aircraft, but also our voices, comments and chat, as it is in the interest of safety, which over-rides other confidentiality-related regulations. And we accepted. How could we not? We are, more than any other group, committed to safety. Our lives go in front of the aircraft. We must act with responsibility.

But it seems our commitment is not shared. The question everyone is asking these days seems to be "who is responsible for the death of 154 people?", instead of "how can we avoid such tragedy in the future?".

With the wrong question in place, we'll get the wrong answer. All organisations involved in the accident seem to seek to avoid being accused of responsibility for those deaths, instead of committing all their efforts, resources, knowledge and willingness with transparency, openness and without fear.

Imagine this for a moment: Society demanding a cheaper industry, but also demanding that people are blamed when an accident happens; governments allowing the bankruptcy of operators before recognising their own responsibility for the gaps and failures in the system which failed to prevent the accident; operators asking for lower requirements at European/national level, not only in Flight Time Limitations, but other necessary safety requirements for maintenance and operations, having as the only argument the economical survival of the business; lack of commitment from the regulatory bodies to write safety rules, instead of nice looking laws; lack of real effective inspection by the European/national regulatory bodies; lack of proper training of staff involved in these activities. Now, could we imagine anything worse than this?

The new requirements for Safety Management Systems, about to be implemented, require the operators and service providers to nominate accountable people for each of the activities involved in the operation. But will this approach succeed in a system where we only make people accountable in order to blame them if accidents happen? Accountability should be to guide our acts so we are well aware of the possible consequences of what we are doing. In Aviation, accountability must be applied before we act. Asking for it after an accident will not bring back to life those who have died. Worse still, it may fatally injure aviation safety levels.