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Earlier this week the Dutch Investigation Board presented a preliminary report on the crash of Malaysian Flight MH17. Expectations were high but unfortunately the partial conclusions didn’t meet them. While we understand that the work of the investigation team has been challenged and possibly rigged by the tragic ongoing conflict in Ukraine, we also do expect meaningful final conclusions to be drawn up at the end of the process to ensure similar tragedies won’t happen again in the future.

The interim report  lays down the already suspected causal factors: no technical failure or pilot error but “damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside” are the cause of the crash. Many questions still remain unanswered: Why was this aircraft overflying this conflict zone? Why many airlines’ risk analysis failed to identify the imminent danger?  Did something go wrong in the intelligence information exchange?

These very central questions have not been addressed at this stage. But we do hope that the final report – which will probably be published in a year time – will bring clarity. Several international aviation safety organisations, such as ICAO, IATA and IFALPA, have started identifying ways to improve information sharing in the future. ECA hopes that a structural workable solution for intelligence agencies and air transport organisations can be accepted by ICAO Member States and put in place soon. MH17 type of event should never happen again.

On a different note, the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) took a decision on Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) request to get an exemption to allow it to fly to the USA. The DOT refused to grant this exemption. This is good news for pilots and airlines on both sides of the Atlantic who have joined forces and opposed this unfair business model that NAI attempted to set up under an Irish ‘flag of convenience’. It is a first strong signal that NAI’s business model affects public interest and is not in line with the spirit of the EU – US Transport Agreement. We hope that the final decision of the DOT on granting a foreign air carrier permit will go in the same direction. The legislator cannot allow an airline to use cheap labour (recruited in Asia) and circumvent EU and US social labour standards to tear pilots’ terms and conditions apart. In their competition airlines must respect the legal framework they operate in and act as socially responsible companies. ECA will continue to denounce such unfair practices, require the EU legislators to ensure that companies can compete, but do so in a fair and socially responsible manner!

by Nico Voorbach