The French Transport Ministry announced that it will publish a list of airlines that have been banned from landing in French territory due to safety violations. The decision follows the crash in Venezuela last week of a charter airliner operated by Trans Caribbean Airways that killed 152 passengers from the French island of Martinique and 8 crew members (See IJ Website Aug. 16,17).
Transport Minister Dominique Perben also indicated that safety inspections of planes making stopovers at French airports will be increased. As part of the listings the Ministry’s Internet site will now publish a list of authorized companies, including charter airlines.
Switzerland and the U.K. began publishing similar lists in January 2004. There is now strong pressure for the European Union to create a Europe-wide blacklist. This would solve one of the ongoing problems in dealing with airline safety. Each country conducts its own aircraft inspections, frequently in ignorance of what other countries may have found. Nor are countries presently required to share information, although the often do so voluntarily. Most authorities now agree that such a continent-wide list is long overdue.
The recent spate of fatal accidents has focused attention on the problem. More people are flying and more airlines are being created to handle the traffic, especially low-cost charters. This puts a greater strain on the already overworked inspectors who have to certify that an aircraft is safe to fly. Inevitably there are lapses, often with fatal consequences.
It would certainly appear to be in everyone’s interest, including the insurance carriers who cover the planes and the brokers who place the coverage, to increase the number of inspectors, to demand that inspections be more frequent and more thorough, and that airlines with below standard safety records be promptly identified. The French decision is one small step along that road.