Posted by- Neelam Mathews
Dec 17, 2011
The Judge in charge of the legal investigation into the Spanair MD80 accident,
Javier Pérez, has concluded that all charges against Spanair’s management
should be dropped and only two maintenance engineers should face charges.
To those far removed from the tragedy this may on the surface appear
reasonable yet to industry insiders, the decision is a complete affront to
justice, says Aircraft Engineers International (AEI).
“The general public should be shocked at this latest development because in
the longer term, safety will be the ultimate victim of this process and if EASA
does nothing more, tragedies will follow,” says AEI.
Spanair flight number JK 5022 crashed with 172 on board moments after taking
off from Madrid's Barajas Airport on a scheduled flight to Las Palmas on
20 August 2008. Just 18 survived the crash and subsequent fire aboard. Th
airline's central computer which crash and this resulted in a failure to raise an
alarm over multiple problems with the plane, according to Spanish daily El Pais.
The plane took off with flaps and slats retracted, something that should in any case
have been picked up by the pilots during pre-flight checks or triggered an internal warning
on the plane. Neither happened, with tragic consequences, according to a report by
independent crash investigators.
AEI has explicitly warned EASA for many years of the dangers of the ever weakening
regulatory oversight system. In fact AEI, well before the Madrid accident, has
consistently been warning of the urgent need to close regulatory
loopholes surrounding the use of the MEL (minimum Equipment List) in order to ensure
defects are properly and thoroughly diagnosed prior to flight. (The MEL list allows airlines
to operate aircraft with defective systems for a limited time period). One of these loopholes
caused the Spanair disaster, says the statement
Tragically the Spanair accident investigators have highlighted exactly the same issues
in their accident report as raised previously by AEI. The report has in fact produced a
safety recommendation (33/2011) as a result of their findings.
“This recommendation if adopted by EASA would ensure commercial airlines properly
diagnose defects before the next departure thereby enhancing safety of the aircraft in
question. With EASA’s remit and duty to European citizens of ensuring the highest
standards of aviation safety we would now expect this recommendation to be dealt
with immediately rather than continuing with the blatant disregard we have witnessed
to date. It is exactly this reluctance of EASA, Europe’s premier safety agency to become
involved in the safety standards war that allows some airlines to operate with second
rate standards in place. As a consequence two aircraft engineers are now being used
as scapegoats in order to ensure somebody is made responsible for this tragedy.”
This totally unsatisfactory situation is further enhanced by what appears to be political
and technical dithering of the European Union’s Transport department (DGTREN).
This department more than any other, seems to be embarking on an extremely
hazardous path by encouraging ever more flexible rules and regulations whilst advocating
more and more self regulation. This approach will result in further unnecessary tragedies,
adds the statement.
“Despite all the rhetoric about aviation safety being paramount, the introduction of safety
and quality management systems, the simple fact remains that due to weak regulatory
oversight, safety systems are not delivering what Europeans were promised – the
highest common standards of safety in civil aviation. “
Airline pilots and Aircraft maintenance engineers are licensed safety professionals
With pilot organisations also raising concerns about the current regulatory situation
within Europe one would expect the response from EASA, the EU and all European
national aviation authorities to be concern and ultimately action, rather than turning
their back on air safety.