An examination of aviation accidents in the context of a conflict of interests between law enforcement, insurers, commissions for aircraft accident investigations and other entities
Authors: Tomasz BALCERZAK
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The sole purpose of air accident investigations should be the prevention of accidents and incidents in the future without apportioning blame or liability. Any civil aviation safety system is based on feedback and lessons learned from accidents and incidents, which require the strict application of rules on confidentiality in order to ensure the availability of valuable sources of information in the future. Therefore, related data, especially sensitive safety information, should be protected in an appropriate manner. Information provided by a person in the framework of a safety investigation should not be used against that person, in full respect of constitutional principles, as well as national and international law. Each “involved person” in an accident or another serious incident should promptly notify the competent investigating authority of the state of the event. An “involved person” means the owner, a member of the crew, the operator of the aircraft involved in an accident or other serious incident, or any person involved in the maintenance, design, manufacture of the affected aircraft or in the training of its crews, as well as any person involved in air traffic control, providing flight information or providing airport services to the aircraft in question, the staff of the national civil aviation authority, or staff of the European Aviation Safety Agency. The protection level of the organization (employer): employees who report an event or replace applications following an event with regard to the appropriate reporting systems should not face any prejudice from their employer because of information provided by the applicant. The protection does not cover (exclusions): infringement with wilful misconduct (direct intent, recklessness infringement); infringement committed by a clear and serious disregard of the obvious risks; and serious professional negligence of an unquestionably duty of care required under the circumstances, resulting in possible or actual damage to persons or property, or damage that seriously compromises the level of aviation safety. All employees in the aviation sector, regardless of their function, have safety-related duties, which are crucial to the security of the entire civil aviation system. The safety of this system requires that as many events that have or may have an impact on security in aviation are reported voluntarily and without delay in order to conduct appropriate analyses and increase the level of safety. “Just Culture” is the basic premise of the effective functioning of event reporting required for all aviation organizations in order to maintain and enhance safety levels. As safety management is based on data, it is necessary to introduce appropriate procedures, which allow for obtaining information, not only about the events that have already occurred, but also about any other events that could potentially cause hazardous conditions. All the procedures and rules of operation relating to the policy of “Just Culture” should be constructed, so that they not only comply with the provisions of applicable law, but are also rational and understandable among all stakeholders, while ensuring a certain level of comfort and confidentiality to those reporting events that affect airline safety. Changes in the existing legal system should be established in cooperation with all concerned institutions: law enforcement, including the courts and public prosecution bodies, insurers aviation, the aircraft accident investigation commission and other entities. Is it possible to reconcile the interests of so-called “Just Culture” in the aviation industry with the requirements of the above-mentioned institutions and traders involved in the implementation of air transport and the exploration of the effects of aerial surveys? The answers to this and similar questions will be fully addressed in this article.