Sunday 24 September 2017

'Unwarranted, unacceptable, counterproductive' - Pilots' Union criticise release of Rescue 116 cockpit transcript

AAIU say release of transcript was 'deemed very relevant'

Scene of the search in Black Rock and inset the crew of Rescue 116 (left) and Evan Cullen (right)
Scene of the search in Black Rock and inset the crew of Rescue 116 (left) and Evan Cullen (right)
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

The president of the Irish Air line Pilots' Union has criticised the release of a transcript detailing the last two minutes of tragic Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116.

Evan Cullen said there is "absolutely no justification" for or "benefit from" publishing the data.

Last week the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) published the preliminary report into the crash at Black Rock in Co Mayo.

The report carried a transcript of the last two minutes of dialogue between the crew on board. It revealed that Captain Dara Fitzpatrick desperately attempted to avoid colliding with Black Rock island after their on-board warning system failed to alert them to danger.

However, the helicopter crashed, claiming the lives of Capt Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy. Winchman Paul Ormsby, and winch operator Ciarán Smith are still missing.

In a joint statement, released this evening, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and the European Cockpit Association (ECA) criticised the publication describing it as "unwarranted, unacceptable, counterproductive" to flight safety.

Two of the crew of Rescue 116: (left to right) Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith
Two of the crew of Rescue 116: (left to right) Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith

However the AAIU have tonight rubbished the claims and insisted the section was "deemed very relevant" to their report.

The statement claimed the report contravened the internationally agreed principles of accident investigation confidentiality, set out in ICAO Annex 13 and EU Accident Investigation Regulation 996/2010. The statement added that it unnecessarily adds to the burden of the victims' families, and alleged that it is also a breach of trust to all those involved in commercial aviation.

Evan Cullen, President of the Irish Air Line Pilots' Association (IALPA) said: "There is absolutely no justification for - or benefit from - publishing specifically the last two minutes of this flight."

The statement went on to claim that the state is not permitted to make Cockpit Voice Recorder recordings and any transcripts from such recordings available for purposes other than accident or incident investigation though the relevant EU regulation appears to allow the competent authority some discretion.

Evan Cullen, President of the Irish Airline Pilot's Association. Photo: Collins Courts
Evan Cullen, President of the Irish Airline Pilot's Association. Photo: Collins Courts

A spokesman for the AAIU said they are "satisfied that they have followed best international practice and national legislation regarding the issuance of the Preliminary Report".

"The section of transcript released in the Preliminary Report was deemed very relevant to the AAIU in giving the families, aviation regulators, operators and the many operational S-92 pilots around the world a better understanding of the sequence of events that occurred on the day of this tragic accident.

"The AAIU will continue in its work to bring this particular investigation to its final conclusion. AAIU investigations are held in Private and are Confidential.  No comment is made specific to any investigation other than through a published report."

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