Staying Legal: Charged with Crimes

French criminal trial involving mechanics started in February 2010

The danger
Many people in our industry have already weighed in on the subject of SMS expressing grave misgivings about the spread of proprietary safety data far and wide around the world. The deputy associate administrator at FAA, to the contrary however, has recently stated that ... "we have to make sure we continue to position ourselves as the global standard bearer for SMS ..." Nobody knows what this means. But there is a real possibility that all this information could be made available to all sorts of people around the globe.

All the talk that you will hear about proposed "adequate safeguards" against the release of safety information you can assume is nothing but rhetoric to soothe the privacy advocates. You can rest assured that the information will leak out to the interested parties. Just consider your privacy already ... in this country ... you just don't get much protection at all, from our government, your company, or anybody else for that matter.

If all this proprietary safety information is allowed to be freely available then what would this do for the prosecution of people concerned who may have been involved in accidents? Like the Concorde? As has been stated most effectively, it would open the floodgates for the collection of this information by prosecutors around the world to pursue actions against everybody including mechanics, with criminal charges and by lawyers with civil actions. It would stifle any contribution of safety information.

On the other hand if made available it might effectively supply a prosecutor with criminal cases or lawyers with evidence in civil complaints, thus having the effect on everybody concerned of "claming up" and declining to provide any useful safety data at all, in the case of accidents or incidents, and for good reason. Who wants to be arrested or sued? Comments to

Stephen P. Prentice is an attorney whose practice involves FAA-NTSB issues. He has an Airframe and Powerplant certificate and is an ATP rated pilot. He worked with Western Airlines and the Allison Division of GMC in Latin America, servicing commercial and military overhaul activities and is a USAF veteran. E-mail:

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