It may now be the turn of Europe to get tough with aviation safety regulators and inspectors, after revelations that they may not be taking their responsibilities quite as seriously as is expected of them. According to Aircraft Engineers International (AEI), a global body of 45,000 aviation maintenance engineers, pilots in European airlines often fail to report faults when they find them.
A survey of aircraft maintenance engineers, who check flights to and from the UK, has revealed that airlines across Europe are flying planes with known defects, as pilots often fail to report faults when they find them. The AEI asked its members to carry out voluntary inspections of airliner logbooks that contain all information about a plane's faults and when they were reported.
Many pilots only reported faults such as brake fluid leaks and loss of cabin pressure only after completing their homebound flights, or after the day's flights, and not when they found them. The delay allowed airlines to remedy faults at their convenience saving them in costs.
Around 80 to 90 per cent of the faults were reported after pilot had made a homebound flight or after the end of the day's flying schedule.
These revelations come soon after the US Congress enacted changes in laws that now prevent retiring aviation safety officials to maintain a cooling off period of two years before seeking re-employment with airlines. It acted in response to persistent complaints that regulatory officials and airlines were maintaining a ''cosy '' relationship and overlooking factors that could affect the safety of air passengers.
One engineer examined 40 logbooks involving over 3,000 flights, and found that 90 per cent of defects were reported after the homebound flight or at the end of the day.
The findings sparked off a flurry of claims and counter-claims.
AEI Secretary General Fred Bruggeman said: ''We are positive that if regulators examined logbooks in the way we have, they will discover exactly the same pattern of late reporting. Their shocking lack of response makes it clear to us that they do not want to open Pandora's Box. We fear regulators had become too cosy with the aviation industry and are not taking our safety concerns seriously enough.''
The UK's aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), responded by saying that it had carried out inspections of logbooks and was satisfied with its safety measures.
CAA Spokesperson Richard Taylor said: ''The AEI have been making these claims for some time, but they have so far failed to provide us with specific examples. We have carried out our own checks and have found no discrepancies. If they do have any documentary evidence that anyone is failing to report faults, they have a duty to pass on this information to us.''
But Robert Alway, head of Alea, which represents 2,000 maintenance engineers in the United Kingdom, said that his members had come under pressure from employers for revealing fault data. He added, ''The CAA and other European regulators must have a look for this irregular reporting pattern themselves. If they do, we are in no doubt they will find the same irregular reporting pattern.''
Airlines responded to the charges saying they had nothing to hide.