Accident "Criminalization" Prompts Action

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Some high-profile organizations have issued statements condemning the so-called “criminalization” of aircraft accidents and are calling on the world’s aviation authorities to pull the focus of accident investigations back to cause rather than blame. The protracted confinement and threat of criminal charges against two American pilots over the collision between their Legacy 600 business jet and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 (the 737 crashed, killing all 154 aboard) in Brazil has prompted the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations and a multinational group of aviation industry organizations from the U.S. and Europe to call on governments to leave criminal proceedings out of accident investigations unless there is evidence of “extremely egregious” behavior (like flying drunk or sabotage). They agree that the threat of prosecution stifles the free flow of information that not only helps establish cause, but also could help prevent future accidents. The international group, represented by the Flight Safety Foundation, British Royal Aeronautical Society, the French Acadamie Nationale de l’Air et de l’Espace and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), which represents 40 aviation services providers including the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, listed nine cases where airline executives, pilots, mechanics and other workers involved in air crashes are facing hard time in prison if convicted of the charges against them. The group says “the paramount consideration in an accident investigation should be to determine the probable cause of and contributing factors in an accident.” The pilots’ group says Brazilian authorities should release all the information they have on the Legacy/Gol accident and, in the meantime, the Legacy pilots should be allowed to return to the U.S.