EU Aviation Summit – Competitiveness & Safety

When over 300 delegates met in Bruges for the EU Aviation Summit organised by the Belgian Presidency on 26-27 Oct., the overall message was clear: Europe needs a competitive aviation industry, free from financial and administrative burden, and benefitting from an efficient, seamless Single European Sky. And while the welcome theme of competitiveness dominated the event, Europe’s pilots called for higher priority to be given to aviation safety. Because even the most competitive industry will fail if it is not – first of all – SAFE.

As one of the panellists on aviation safety, ECA warned the delegates about taking a safe industry for granted: As safety is a dynamically unstable situation it will collapse unless continuously maintained. Latest accident and incident data shows that safety levels are not improving anymore, and just maintaining today’s accident rate within a context of growing air traffic, potentially means 1 airliner crash every 48 days in 2028. This is clearly not an option!

According to ECA, three factors will impact Europe’s ability to improve safety levels:

1)    Fierce competition, including cost-cutting. Comfortable safety buffers that many companies still had in the “good old times” are being gradually skimmed away; more and more operators are now flying – or want to fly – strictly to the legal limits;

2)    EASA’s future soft-law and performance-based rules, which will come under pressure when the companies themselves are under commercial pressure; which are more likely to be interpreted and implemented in differing ways; and which will be more difficult to oversee and enforce; and a

3)    Lack of resources at EASA and national level to oversee and enforce safety rules, with EASA having insufficient resources and with many national authorities having seen their finances, manpower and expert knowledge cut down significantly.

Against this background, a coordinated and well-funded effort is needed, based on a clear safety target, strategy and action plan, as well as strong political will to consider ‘Safety First’.

Crucially, what is required in the EU’s current search for competitiveness is an acknowledgement that safety does not come for free. Safety does cost money and resources. Even in times of economic hardship – this is an investment we cannot afford to neglect.

Copy of the “Bruges Declaration

Copy of ECA’s speech at the Summit