Jason Starke, Ph.D.
FSF Endorses State Letter Arising From ICAO Task Force on Safety Information Protection
Calls on all States to Position, Implement Recommendations to Protect Safety Information
Alexandria, VA, October 27, 2014 - The Flight Safety Foundation announced today called for strong support and swift adoption of the recommendations developed by the ICAO Safety Information Protection Task Force (SIP TF), which were presented for comment to all the member states of ICAO for new amendments to Annex 6, 13, and 19 related to the protection of safety data.
"If we are to enhance aviation safety along with increased traffic projections around the world, Contracting States must rely to a far greater extent on predictive, data-driven systems that rely on voluntary cooperation and agreements to ensure participation," stated Jon Beatty, FSF President and CEO, in the letter sent to ICAO today. "Yet, absent adequate SIP, these valuable open reporting systems will dry up and go away."
Beatty added: "If some States continue to prosecute individuals and companies for well intentioned, but tragic mistakes, we may never learn why and how they made them to prevent it from happening again. If some States continue to introduce the entirety of official accident investigation reports into evidence to establish liability in civil litigation, then companies understandably will begin to take more adversarial and protective positions in accident investigations, which under Annex 13 are to be used solely for safety, not liability, purposes. If some State judicial systems sanction the compulsory discovery of voluntary disclosure reporting systems to establish liability, organized labor and companies will revisit their participation in these critical safety systems."
According to Beatty, "States simply must take swift and comprehensive actions now to protect aviation safety data from its unintended use and abuse in both common and civil law justice systems." Beatty noted that the proposals embodied in the State Letter represent highly useful and effective means for States to implement adequate protection, regardless of their underlying legal systems.
The SIP TF, with FSF general counsel Kenneth Quinn as vice-chair, was tasked in 2011 by ICAO to examine this issue and spent more than two years researching the issue of safety data protection. Its research included extensive sessions with family groups, prosecutors, aerospace companies, airlines, plaintiff's lawyers, and defense counsel. Several of its important recommendations include:
Create an environment that promotes the flow of safety information, voluntary reporting, and protection of those who voluntarily report;
Move away from voluntary guidance and require Contracting States to adjust their domestic legislation and regulations to meet ICAO's SIP Standards and Recommended Practices of Annexes 6, 13, and 19;
Provide Contracting States clear parameters on using safety information (i.e., providing a definition of appropriate and inappropriate uses) and require Contracting States to adopt formal procedures for the protection of safety information, with a clear focus on maintaining and improving aviation safety, balance of the Contracting States' need for the proper administration of justice, and cooperation with Contracting States' judicial authorities;
Permit flexibility for Contracting States to meet the SIP principles according to the laws and regulations of each State;
Call upon Contracting States to assign internal responsibilities with regard to SIP, requiring the establishment of a competent authority to determine exceptions to the protection of safety information under the particular facts and circumstances;
Recognize that the disclosure of safety information should remain exceptional (i.e., situations of gross negligence or willful misconduct) and justified (i.e., necessary to maintain and improve safety) for the use of such information in the administration of justice.
The Foundation called on all States to support the important safety advances by endorsing this State Letter by October 31, 2014.