Aircraft Engineers International (AEI) recently held their 35th Annual Congress in London. The congress hosted by AEI's UK Affiliate the Association of Licensed Aircraft Engineers (ALAE) attracted 65 delegates from all over the world.
The main decision reached after heavy debate was a resolution to step up the campaign for better policing of aircraft maintenance carried out in the European Union.
AEI are also calling for an investigation into "widespread abuse" of aircraft technical log books in which faults originating early in the day are not recorded by flight crew until several flights later, once the aircraft returns to a maintenance base.
The moves come after a senior EU official failed to refute claims that over 1000 maintenance failings or non adherence/compliance to airline safetyregulations by the various European Aviation Authorities and airlines had been uncovered within a 12 month period with many remaining uncorrected.
Deputy EU Commissioner for Transport, Olga Koumartsioti, who was questioned at the AEI conference in London, would only say: "This was just a snapshot."
AEI are pressing for EU memberstates to investigate what Fred Bruggeman, AEI Secretary General described as "a massive fraud" by pilots who do not report malfunctions or systemdefects when they happen away from home base.
"Statistically these defects should occur periodically throughout the day" said Mr Bruggeman. "We know that a quick check of a number of aircraft technical logbooks would simply show if a disproportionate number of faults are entered into the logbooks on the last flight of the day where maintenance can be performed conveniently without disrupting the flight programme." The reason is that away from a maintenance base there are often no engineers qualified to deal with the defects or repairs would be too time-consuming thus being costly and too disruptive to the flight schedule.
When pressed on this point the EU commissioner said Engineers should report such abuses to their employer. Unfortunately the fact is that reporting such matters often leads to dismissal as we are well aware that the European confidential reporting system has yet to mature.
European Aviation Safety Authorities however could suggest to the various National Authorities throughout Europe to carry out their own audit of logbooks to discover the full extent of this scandal.
After questioning of the EU Deputy Commissioner Mr. Bruggeman wasn't convinced. "I'm unfortunately still of the opinion that at the moment the EU just doesn't have the powers to police European aviation safety effectively."
"I'm not saying that everyone of these failings could lead to a major incident. I do know however, that more and more affiliates are reporting and highlighting failings within the system. Proving the ineffectiveness of the authorities oversight.
In our opinion the regulations are good but must be effectively enforced to ensure highest standards of maintenance and safety."
AEI voices concerns that many aircraft system defects (up to 90 percent) were recorded when it was "commercially convenient" for airlines rather than when they occurred.
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ICAO figures show an average rate of compliance with their regulations of around 60% whilst national aviation safety regulator manning levels have on average only attained 24% of their target levels.
The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) has been successful in gaining access to safety related audit reports of CASA approved foreign maintenance bases.