Regaining trust in aviation

Europe’s pilots are shocked – on 24 March, 144 passengers and 6 crewmembers died a senseless and tragic death. We are shocked, because even if this will turn out to be an isolated and singular event in Europe’s aviation history, we never thought that an act like this might be done by one of our colleagues. That is because we work hard every day, together with all our colleagues in the airline industry, to make flying even safer than ever before. Safety is in every pilot’s professional DNA, and the first and most important answer we, as professional pilots, can give now is to do what we do best: take our passengers, who trust us with their lives, safely to their destinations!

But we will have no choice than to shake off the shock and start answering the many burning questions. Will it be enough, however, to simply add some steps to existing procedures or to implement new rules and regulations? I doubt that. From my point of view this is about regaining the trust of our passengers into the safety of flying and into our industry as a whole.

Regaining trust is also an issue when it comes to protecting data during an ongoing investigation, and the fact that such data was collected for the sole purpose of increasing safety! The fact that pilots are the only profession that has a non-stop surveillance at their workplace, by means of Cockpit Voice Recorders and Flight Data Recorders, does not give anybody the right to misuse the collected data by making it public. No matter if we talk about an accident investigation or a criminal prosecution, the rules are exactly the same. Some branches of the media seem to have lost this out of sight and the intense media pressure was for sure not helpful for leading a thorough investigation.

Finally, time and media pressure are never good advisors when it comes to finding solutions. We are running the risk of seeing new policies introduced without thoroughly thinking them through. Involving stakeholders – including pilots – at this critical stage is essential. This is the way that the aviation industry has always drawn the necessary conclusions from tragic events. This is also the way that made aviation the safest means of transportation. And this is the only way to pay respect to the victims, their relatives and friends.

by Dirk Polloczek, ECA President