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Pilots' anger on reporting incidents


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Irish pilots' union IALPA is seeking an urgent meeting with new Transport Minister Eamon Ryan over aviation job losses and its belief that there are "serious conflicts of interest" within the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

The union is concerned about threatened redundancies among Irish-based pilots at CityJet, Ryanair and Stobart Air following the downturn caused by the pandemic.

It is also angry that former transport minister Shane Ross assigned the State's regulator, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), responsibility for overseeing how it handles confidential pilot reports on safety issues, claiming this amounts to a conflict of interest.

Assigning this responsibility to the IAA is "similar to the Garda Ombudsman working with the Garda Commissioner", aviation sources have said.

A delay in promised separation of the IAA's existing safety and regulatory functions - committed to by Mr Ross three years ago - is exacerbating the union's concerns.

Ireland is one of 10 member states that had failed to designate a "just-culture body", ensuring a person reporting incidents in civil aviation would not be penalised by employers or by the member states' authorities, "subject to specific exceptions", according to the European Commission.

The commission warned in May that Ireland had four months to comply.

Under threat of legal action from the EU, Mr Ross's department assigned the IAA the authority to establish an oversight mechanism for responding to proactive reporting of safety issues, shortly before he left office.

The IAA opened a public consultation on a "just culture" oversight body on May 21. It received 21 submissions before the closing date of June 22.

In its submission, IALPA expresses concern about the "independence and objectivity" of a body which runs "the risk of being seen as just another function of the IAA".

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Recreational pilots are also concerned. Brian Lowe, outgoing chairman of the National Aero Club, said: "It is regrettable Mr Ross chose to rush though important occurrence reporting legislation in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis without adequate consultation."

He added that the "reporting system should be completely independent of the regulatory authorities", such as the system used in the US.

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