Keep the Balance

Last month, the Swedish Air Accident Investigation Board (SHK) issued the final report of an incident that took place at Åre/Östersund (Sweden) in July 2007. The incident is not relevant in terms of damage or severity because neither passengers nor the aircraft suffered major damage. The airplane involved in this incident was operated by an airline with an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) issued by a member country of the European Union. This airline was also involved in a more serious incident in Lanzarote (Spain) a few months before (June 2007). Coincidentally, the final report of this incident has also been recently released.

The incident reports note one relevant factor in common: the lack of operational control by this airline. This means that certain procedures of this airline were unsafe and were uncovered only after the investigation of these incidents. Both accident investigation authorities (Swedish and Spanish) have recommended that EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) evaluate the methods, controls and oversight followed by the National Civil Aviation Authorities related to variations of the AOC for a specific airline.

We are talking about a European airline overseen and controlled by European authorities under European regulations–not one of the famous EU "Black List" airlines.

European aviation safety is not in question. Europe has one of the best safety records in aviation worldwide. There's no point in blaming any particular airline, especially when this airline has substantially changed many of its procedures and activities. The "name & shame" has shown to be a useless tool in safety improvement.

However, as aviation professionals as well as European citizens, we wonder if National Aviation Authorities in Europe have the resources needed to accomplish the tasks inherent to safety oversight and control of their national airlines. The economic impact of the air transport sector in many European countries is enormous. These countries benefit from the tourism and businesses that would not be possible without the airlines' involvement.

However, airlines can only deliver profitability if they deliver safety. Having successfully created a much more competitive aviation market, Europe's politicians must ensure that their Aviation Authorities are properly resourced to enable them, in turn, to ensure that passengers do not need to consider each airline's safety records.

ECA is not the first organisation to realise that unless the accident rate continues to reduce, then the financial health of the sector will not be maintained or improved. Aviation safety is a pre-requisite of profitable and sustainable airlines.