VALETTA, Malta, 13 Nov. 2012. Aircraft Engineers International (AEI) officials, addressing licensed aircraft maintenance engineers at the 40th AEI Annual Congress, characterized the amount of evidence detailing safety lapses by both commercial operators and aviation regulators as “staggering.”
Recent International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety audit results indicate a 60 percent average rate of compliance with regulations, whereas national aviation safety regulator manning levels average roughly 24 percent of the target.
"These facts explain why regulatory authorities consistently fail to uncover, let alone correct, serious safety lapses," says AEI Secretary General Fred Bruggeman of the ICAO safety audit figures. "It is not possible for industry regulators to oversee a safety-critical industry without being properly resourced."
Licensed aircraft maintenance engineers are responsible for certifying that an aircraft is in a condition for safe operation. They are licensed independently of the airlines by national aviation authorities rather than by the airlines, which should ensure maintenance activities are performed in the correct manner, to the highest standards and that safety is not compromised. The naming of licensed personnel with authority to release aircraft into service by signature is an accepted method of accountability that applies worldwide, an AEI spokesperson explains.
Aircraft maintenance is an area of high potential danger and critical to safe flight operations; nonetheless, those who “take their safety responsibilities seriously are often deemed by airlines to be a problem and all too often a simple logic prevails: shoot the messenger and you remove the problem,” the spokesperson adds.
"Pressure on aircraft engineers to overlook safety issues has been steadily increasing as the priority for airlines shifts from safety to profit,” admits AEI President Robert Alway. “Regulators need to do more to protect aircraft engineers who report safety problems. After all, their actions could well prevent an accident and that is most certainly in the public interest."