What is the issue?

The Flight Data (FD) recorded during a flight must be used solely to enhance aviation safety. During an operation any occurrence may happen and the pilot must be confident that he can report what happened without being blamed or sanctioned. Otherwise, he may decide not to report which would dry the flow of crucial safety information. This would create a very harmful situation as the less reporting the less the aviation sector can learn from such occurrences to prevent future accidents or incidents. Aviation safety can only be improved if front end users can report occurrences without fearing that disciplinary measures will be taken against them. To encourage such reporting best practices, the EU has made a first step in the right direction with the adoption of the Regulation 996/2010 on accident investigation and Regulation 376/2014 on Occurrence Reporting.

How is ECA involved?

During the legislative process which led to the adoption of the new EU Accident Investigation Regulation in 2010, ECA repeatedly stressed that the sole objective of any accident investigation is to understand what happened and why, in order to improve aviation safety, without apportioning blame or liability, as stated in Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention. Together with air traffic controllers, pilots pushed strongly for a safety-oriented approach.

As regards occurrence reporting in civil aviation ECA has been an active voice of pilots during the drafting of the new Regulation, which is applicable as of 15 Nov 2015. The new regulation creates a comprehensive framework for improving the quality and completeness of occurrence data and for timely identification of safety hazards. It also provides for confidentiality of certain information, which will encourage safety professionals, including pilots, to report incidents and thereby ‘feed’ a forward-looking accident prevention system across Europe.

The ECA FD Working Group meets regularly to provide direct inputs to the European Commission and other EU Institutions. ECA also informs the Commission about irregularities reported to us regarding the implementation of the above mentioned pieces of legislation. In parallel, within the EU Social Dialogue, ECA works with the Association of European Airlines (AEA) to define a framework that would provide a balanced situation between the air-carriers' interest/obligation to collect data from the aircraft, and the protection of the crews' rights, privacy and personal data. ECA is also involved in EUROCONTROL and other bodies' safety improvement initiatives notably in the promotion of Just Culture. It also has an observer seat in the ECAC ACC group of investigators.

Why is the issue important to ECA?

First of all, pilots have key interests in improving safety by regular reporting practices. However, they will do so only if they are sure they will not be legally prosecuted and if their companies guarantee the protection of data in a Just Culture environment. Secondly, current EU legislation does not sufficiently protect the reporters and therefore needs to be strengthened. ECA's role is to make sure that the current legislation is being revised accordingly and that a comprehensive safety aviation framework is set up. As an element of it, Just Culture must be promoted at company, national and EU levels.

Who is responsible?
  • Executive Board Director: Tanja Harter
  • Staff member: Loïc Michel
  • Working Group: Flight Data (FD WG)
  • Chairman: Bert Bonke


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