Sunday, April 22, 2012

Civil Aviation Authority to probe into own affairs

By: Amraiz Khan

LAHORE – The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has formed a four-member committee to probe into the Bhoja Air plane crash, which claimed the lives of 127 passengers and crew-members.

The probe team is headed by Group Capt Mujahid Islam, who is a renowned aircraft investigator of the world. However, an aviation expert, while seeking anonymity, said that there was an obvious conflict of interest because the CAA not only regulated and controlled civil aviation activities but also owned and operated airports and air traffic control in Pakistan’s airspace.

Secondly, Safety Investigation Board (SIB) is not an independent and autonomous statutory board. It is working under the administrative and operational control of the CAA, which itself is a party in the aircraft accidents. Hence, it is a violation of Standard 5.4 of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)’s Annex 13 (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation), which stipulate that the accident investigation authority shall have independence in the conduct of the investigation and enjoys unrestricted authority over its conduct, consistent with the provisions of the annexure.

In Pakistan, the SIB of CAA is responsible to investigate of all civil aircraft accidents and incidents in conformity with Article 26 of the Chicago Convention, 1944, which imposes an obligation on the state in which the aircraft accident occurs to institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the accident in accordance with ICAO rules.

In addition, Standard 2.1.2 of the ICAO’s Manual of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation Part I (Organisation and Planning) requires that the accident investigation authority must be strictly objective and totally impartial and must also be perceived to be so. It should be established in such a way that it can withstand political or other interference or pressure.

In the United Sates, the National Transportation Safety Board is an independent agency is charged to investigate all civil aircraft accidents and promotes transportation safety through the recommendation process. Its principle areas of concern are violations of Federal Air Regulations (FARs) and deficiencies in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) systems or procedures. In addition, NTSB also provides assistance to the victims of aircraft accidents and their families.  In Australia, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is charged to investigating aircraft accidents and incidents. It is operationally an independent from the aviation regulatory authority and airline operators. There are similar investigation authorities in Canada, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other countries.

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