European Aviation Authorities Refuse to Protect Whistleblowers

AEI plans to set out a roadmap of actions on how to safeguard aircraft maintenance in the future by prioritising the main areas of risk, highlighting weak regulations and those ignored by both airlines and regulators.


Hamburg, Germany, 7 October 2010.

Experience has shown that often before an aircraft accident occurs, a number of incidents and numerous other deficiencies have highlighted the existence of safety hazards. It is therefore in both the public and the aviation industry’s best interests to gather better knowledge of these occurrences in order to facilitate analysis and trend monitoring with the aim of preventing the accident before it occurs. AEI are particularly concerned about the situation in Europe where those who report safety violations are all too often subject to severe consequences.

During AEI’s 38th Annual Congress in Hamburg, one of Europe’s leading regulators refused to offer unequivocal support for those who do brave the consequences and report. Unfortunately this sort of attitude is widespread despite the European Commission introducing several directives designed to promote the collection of safety related data whilst protecting the reporter. AEI therefore urges all European regulators to revisit these directives and remind themselves of their responsibilities.

EC Directives 216/2008 and 2003/42 not only require the protecting of the reporter but actually make the reporting of unsafe activities mandatory as it is clearly in the public interest to protect them from such activities. Therefore both lawmakers and regulators must work together to ensure the aviation community is free to highlight malpractice without having to fear personal consequences.

To assist in this task AEI will set out a roadmap of actions on how to safeguard aircraft maintenance in the future by prioritising the main areas of risk, highlighting weak regulations and those ignored by both airlines and regulators. Regulators must also place more distance between themselves and the financial concerns of keeping an airline viable. Regulators are there to regulate safety on the public’s behalf and as such must ensure safety remains paramount. Commercially viable but unsafe airlines are not an acceptable option.

Therefore pressure on our members to “shut up and be quiet” will no longer be tolerated. AEI wishes to work in partnership with both regulators and industry to maintain the highest levels of safety. Shooting of any messenger is short sighted, not in the public interest and therefore doesn’t have a place in the 21st century. The European Transport Directorate may wish to seek improvements in the protection of reporters within some of the current regulations.

In addition AEI in accordance with current European freedom of information regulations recently requested documents from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) relating to the audit and approval of foreign maintenance organisations. During Congress shocking video evidence of safety violations at these EASA approved facilities was presented. The low cost maintenance organisations concerned remain fully operational and EASA has not responded to the freedom of information requests within the prescribed 15 working days. The lack of action from all involved regulatory authorities means that the alleged safety violations may still be ongoing which ultimately could costs lives. AEI considers this behaviour unacceptable and urges both urgent intervention and the releasing of the requested documents. Unfortunately this is not the first time EASA have refused to release documents which may potentially highlight a lack of will to directly confront safety violations.

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