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Aviation industry in need of wake up call over safety

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Staff writer ▼ | December 2, 2013
Aviation industryDelegates attending the Aircraft Engineers International (AEI) 41st Annual Congress 2013 in Melbourne, Australia have been informed that known but unreported aircraft defects remains the biggest single threat to passenger safety.

"Airline passengers are unknowingly facing higher levels of risks due to the dangerous practice of not documenting aircraft system defects until reaching an airport where maintenance can be performed. In other words defects are typically reported "only when commercially convenient for the operator to repair, rather than when they actually occur," says AEI President Robert Alway.

According to AEI, pilots are under immense pressure from airline management to avoid technical delays; similar to the pressure management attempts to put on their Licensed Aircraft Engineers. "With constant cost-cutting by the airlines, many pilots feel they are forced to report defects only on homebound flights or flights into airports where engineers are available. As a result, safety is being compromised to an unacceptable level."

During the congress delegates were informed that investigations to date highlighted that over 80% of all aircraft defects were logged at the end of a day's commercial flying, 10% were logged at an airport where maintenance was available, with the remaining 10% being logged as they occurred.

"It is a perilous situation continued Mr Alway "with regulators conveniently looking the other way with their fingers crossed, hoping that the unthinkable won't happen". AEI also re-issued a call for closer co-operation with pilots on this issue before more lives are lost as in the case of Turkish Airlines flight TK 1951.

A further cause of great concern was the reluctance of national airworthiness authorities to take airlines to task over the problem. The situation also highlights loopholes raised by AEI in the current auditing system, which tends to involve inspectors checking procedures, etc. in the hangar offices but rarely involves unannounced inspections where the maintenance actually takes place - outside on the ramp where the errors occur.

AEI however, is 100% committed to ensuring that passengers are protected at all times by insisting that safety standards are maintained at the highest possible levels. Therefore, AEI calls upon all national regulatory authorities to work harder to enforce regulatory compliance by airlines.

An additional step offering significant safety benefits would be to introduce unannounced audits of airlines and maintenance repair stations rather than the several weeks advanced notice issued presently.

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