Examination of Witnesses

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:28 pm on 23rd February 2012.

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Jim McAuslan: No, I think that a lot will depend on the culture of the airline and how effective it is. Throughout the world, where global accidents have happened it has clearly been because the culture has been got wrong and things have been glossed over. The Colgan accident, which happened three years ago last  week, occurred because corners were being cut. In that case, fatigue was an issue, but it is not always fatigue.

We would contend that being low-cost does not mean you are unsafe. Each airline must be looked at on a case-by-case basis, but we would contend that certain standards have to be maintained. What happened in the UK over the past few years to give us the high safety standards is that a set of regulations has evolved through science, medical evidence and experience. Why throw those out—there has not been an accident, therefore things must be safe—and then run the risk? Why not codify and keep them, which is what we argue elsewhere with the fatigue rules, rather than just saying that it has not happened?

In looking at a low-cost airline, there are questions we would raise about how effectively that airline is regulated, because it is operating across a number of countries through various jurisdictions, with no obvious link with any national regulator that can keep control, so a lot will hinge on how effectively that airline operates. The history of the merchant navy was one of, “Do we have to regulate?”, and we saw the emergence of flags of convenience and what happened there. The way in which safety standards dropped in the merchant navy became a real concern. I do not think we should do this lightly, which is why our contention with the Bill is that Parliament needs to think about giving more responsibility and diluting even further the focus of the CAA.