Review of 116 crash report conflicts with safety standards, say pilots

Review of 116 crash report conflicts with safety standards, say pilots
File image of Capt Dara Fitzpartick, Chief Pilot when she served in the Waterford Coast Guard SAR at Waterford Airport. Picture: Patrick Browne

The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) has said the Government’s establishment of a board to review the Rescue 116 helicopter crash draft final report is in conflict with international safety standards.

The pilots’ union was responding to Wednesday’s announcement by Transport Minister Shane Ross that he was appointing senior counsel Patrick McCann to chair the review of the draft final report.

The draft has been completed and was circulated to interested parties, including the families of the four crew members who died — Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, and winch crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

A 60-day period was given for submissions. The report has not yet been published by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), due to an application in January for a review of certain findings.

The four air/sea rescue helicopter crew were providing “top cover” communication for the medical evacuation of a crewman from a British-registered fishing vessel when their Sikorsky S-92 hit Blackrock island off north Mayo in the early hours of March 14, 2017.

The bodies of Mr Ormsby and Mr Smith have not been found in spite of extensive searches supported by the fishing fleet.

IALPA president Evan Cullen has expressed concern over the ongoing delay in publishing the final report.

The Rescue 116 crew.
The Rescue 116 crew.

“Ireland has an obligation to publish the final version of an accident investigation report as quickly as possible to ensure that safety recommendations, potentially applicable to search and rescue operations worldwide, are implemented at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Capt Cullen.

He said that, in IALPA’s view, the review “does not comply with the standards and recommended practices laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO]”.

“Annex 13 of ICAO sets out how states should investigate or delegate the investigation of accidents which have occurred in their territory,” he said. “For a country to take the unusual step of deviating from ICAO practice, it must file a difference to the ICAO standards and we do not believe Ireland has taken this step.

“It is fundamental that adherence to international obligations regarding aviation safety recommendations should transcend stakeholder concerns over reputation. Prevention of any future accidents demands no less.”

The Department of Transport said it “wholly rejects” the IALPA claim and said there is “nothing in Annexe 13 of the ICAO regulations “ that obliges it to file a difference. A spokeswoman for the department said the AAIU chief inspector also concurred with its position.

Under Ireland’s Air Navigation (Notification and Investigation of Accidents, Serious Incidents and Incidents) Regulations 2009, an “interested party” may serve on the minister written “notice of re-examination”.

This is “in respect of findings and conclusions that appear to reflect adversely on the person’s reputation”.

CHC Ireland, which employed the four air crew, has declined to say whether it sought the review.

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