22-Sep-2010 9:29 AM

EC welcomes endorsement of new rules for accident investigation

European Commission welcomed (21-Sep-2010) a vote supporting a new regulation on investigation and prevention of aviation accidents which paves the way to a first-reading agreement between Parliament and Council. The new law was approved by MEPs today by 604 votes to 11, with 26 abstentions. The new legislation is aimed to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of air accident investigations (free of pressure from regulatory or other authorities) in the EU, promote cooperation between the accident investigation authorities and ensure better follow-up of safety recommendations. In addition, the new regulation significantly reinforces the rights of victims of air accidents and their relatives. By the end of 2011 the Commission must draft an update of the air safety occurrence reporting directive.

The new regulation:

  • Builds on the current Directive 94/56/EC adopted in 1994 establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of civil aviation accidents and incidents;
  • Establishes a European Network of Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authorities, a "natural continuation" of the existing informal cooperation between air accident investigation bodies of Member States. The network will coordinate cooperation between national authorities, advise EU institutions on air safety matters and implement an annual work programme covering activities such as the training of investigators or developing a system for sharing investigation resources;
  • Ensures safety recommendations will be assessed and replied to within a 90-day deadline. In addition, the regulation will facilitate the monitoring of the implementation of follow-up measures;
  • Re-confirms the principle that the sole objective of accident investigation is to prevent future accidents without attributing blame or liability. The regulation implements international standards on the protection of sensitive air safety information. The regulation will not affect the prerogatives of the national courts and competent judicial authorities of Member States, but it will ensure that accident investigators have immediate access to evidence material and information which may be relevant for the improvement of aviation safety;
  • Will require that Member States guarantee coordination between accident investigations and judicial proceedings;
  • Will require airlines to provide passengers with the means to indicate a contact person in case of an accident;
  • Requires EU Member State to set up a civil aviation accident emergency plan and ensure that all airlines based on its territory have a plan to assist victims of accidents and their relatives. [more - European Commission] [more - European Parliament]

European Commission: "While aviation is one of the safest modes of transport in the EU, accidents may happen despite the aviation regulators and the industry's best efforts, leaving passenger victims and their relatives in distress. We have to be prepared. Efficient and independent investigations of civil aircraft accidents are crucial for aviation safety. New rules will allow us to improve investigations, but most importantly, better prevent accidents from happening. They will also establish uniform rules for assisting victims of air accidents and their relatives. The Parliament came to an agreement in less than a year after the Commission's proposal was presented. The Commission is now looking forward to a swift adoption of this new legislation by the Council." Siim Kallas, Transport Commissioner. Source: European Commission, 31-Sep-2010.

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