“The Spanish Aviation Safety Agency must review its safety oversight policy”

The Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) points at the lack of oversight by the Spanish Aviation Safety Agency as one of the significant contributing factors of the 2011 accident at Cork Airport. Six people, including one Spanish pilot, were killed due to the loss of control of the aircraft as a result of the air crew fatigue and their lack of experience and training.

Madrid, 30 January 2014. “The Spanish Aviation Safety Agency must review its safety oversight policy of operators, in particular those performing remote operations”. The Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has made this statement in its report, published this week, regarding the Metroliner crash occurred on 10 February 2011 in Cork (Ireland), which took the lives of 6 people.

The aircraft was flying from Besfast to Cork with 10 passengers on board. The accident occurred on the third landing attempt, after two missed approaches performed by the air crew due to the low visibility conditions. The report points out other contributing factors such as the pilots’ lack of experience and the lack of rest. Both the Captain and the co-pilot had
exceeded for several days their daily maximum Flight and Duty Time Limitations, which highly increased their accumulated fatigue, which in turn reduced both pilots’ reaction time.

It has been estimated that fatigue contributes to 20% of aircraft accidents, just like SEPLA has been denouncing for years. The European legislation on Air Crew Flight Time and Duty Time, which was passed on December 2013, has improved the airlines safety levels by allowing rosters which generate less fatigue. Nonetheless, there are still some potentially dangerous loopholes such within the new regulation such as Night Flights Duty Time (the new regulation allows for more duty hours than those recommended by experts) or the accumulation of standby duty hours.

Aircrew fatigue can seriously reduce their response ability and their reaction time, as the Cork accident has shown. That is why it is essential for national Civil Aviation Authorities to oversight airlines in terms of the implementation of the Aircrew Flight Time and Duty Time Limitations, so that their chances of being fatigue victims is reduced as much as possible.

Third-degree Subcontractors

The crashed Metroliner belonged to Air Lada, a Spanish airline which had leased the aircraft from Flightline, a Catalonian airline, which was operating the flight. This airline was also subcontracted by Manx2, which was selling the tickets. This company is based in the Isle of Man.

The Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit has been particularly harsh with the oversight function of the Spanish Aviation Safety Agency (AESA). SEPLA would like to highlight the absence of pilots carrying out oversight inspections within AESA, which would undoubtedly contribute to improving the quality of the inspections performed. Furthermore, it should be noted that it is necessary to increase the number of inspections when there are cases of flights which have been contracted by a third operator, which is a practice which is becoming more and more common.

SEPLA would like to remind that the subcontracting of a third company to operate flights of an airline that cannot cover peaks of production is an increasing practice. Such commercial operations generate confusion among the passengers in terms of finding out which company is operating the flight. The quality guarantee and the safety of such flight are partially deluded among several companies.

There are various examples of flights operated by subcontracted companies which ended in tragedy due in part to the fact that the employment policy of the subcontracted airline was substantially different from the contracting airline. In 2009, a Colgan Air aircraft which was operated by Continental Airlines crashed in Buffalo (USA), killing 50 people. The accident
investigation Bureau later determined that fatigue (resulting from the job insecurity suffered by Cogan’s pilots) and the lack of experience derived from the insufficient training were crucial factors leading to the accident. This crash provoked a change in the USA legislation regarding fatigue. In Spain, one of the most significant examples was the Yakovlev 42 crash
occurred in Turkey in 2003, which killed 62 Spanish military personnel out of a total of 75 casualties.

SEPLA demands AESA to immediately increase the amount and quality of the oversight inspections carried out to the Spanish airlines, both operating in Spain and outside Spain.

GABINETE DE PRENSA SEPLA – 91 309 67 59 / 680 581 136