Air safety authority under fire from pilots

Reports made to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) go into a “black hole”, it has been alleged.

Evan Cullen, president of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA), made the allegation against the safety regulator at a meeting of the Oireachtas transport committee yesterday.

The meeting was to discuss the recent Ryanair flight cancellations and pilot rostering.

IALPA, IAA and the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) addressed the committee. However, during IALPA’s submission, neither the IAA nor the CAR were present.

“I believe it is fair to claim that aspects of the Irish regulatory climate are unduly influenced by considerations that, are or have been, incompatible with established international and Europeans practices,” said Mr Cullen.

He went on to read a letter from the IAA to IALPA that was sent when the pilots’ association complained to the authority about their reporting system.

“We do not report to the individual reporter on the outcome of investigations though we may interview him or her to obtain further information,” said the IAA letter which Mr Cullen read out.

The IALPA president then outlined his association’s initial complaint referred to.

“What this is referring to chairman, is a situation where the IAA believes it has an absolute right, when it receives confidential information or information of a safety nature, that it does not have to tell the reporter, the pilot or the engineer who provided the information, if they’re going to investigate the matter or not,” said Mr Cullen.

“What’s even more damaging from our point of view, is that they do not have to tell the individual who reported if there is an outcome to the investigation [or] if they’ve investigated or not.

“In other words, there is no feedback, there is no response, there is nothing. Information that is provided to the IAA goes into a black hole from which it never emerges from our point of view.”

At this point, Mr Cullen was stopped by the chairman of the committee Fergus O’Dowd TD.

“You’ve made very serious charges there about our regulator. We would have to get their response to it because they are very serious charges because you are saying that when complaints are made to them that they may not or do not respond, that it’s a black hole, and that doesn’t tie up with safe regulation,” said Mr O’Dowd.

He adjourned the meeting stating: “I’m just not happy with this process right now.”

Earlier in the day, commissioner of CAR Cathy Mannion told the committee that she had learned about the flight cancellations of two weeks’ ago “through observing social media and news reports”.

Michael O’Leary was also invited to attend yesterday’s meeting however, the airline boss declined the invitation.

Solidarity and People Before Profit TD, Mick Barry said: “It is an insult they haven’t come”.

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