Photo by Paul Thompson
The European Union will now begin blocking public access to reports and findings related to most aviation safety incidents, an unexpected, transparency-reducing move.
These “Mandatory Occurrence Reports” (MORs) were formerly released to the public and media under Freedom of Information, but news from Brussels last week revealed that the MORs would no longer be available.
MORs include all types of safety incidents related to flying, such as bird strikes, loss of control, aircraft maintenance issues, unsafe air traffic control clearance or any event that causes an emergency landing. They do not include events such as catastrophic crashes.
There are tens of thousands of commercial aircraft in service — including some over thirty years old — but age shouldn’t be the number one concern for fliers, the biggest issue is whether the plane was properly maintained through the course of its service history.
Additionally, some passengers are wary of traveling on planes that have been involved in a past incident then returned to service. British Airways announced in December that a Boeing 777-200ER that caught fire in Las Vegas will be repaired and returned to service. The fire was caused by an uncontained engine failure. This plane is only 16 years old.
In the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provides an online search tool for the public to research all incidents using several criteria, including date, location, airline, aircraft type and even the specific aircraft registration number. For example, if you wanted to look all Boeing 747 incidents, you can do that.
So, why would the E.U. want to hide these reports from the public? Officials and experts can only speculate.
Aviation analyst Paul Beaver told The Daily Mail, “It can only damage air safety if people do not know what is going on. We want more openness in aviation to make it safer. It seems to be a gagging order which is illogical and might well be designed in Brussels to ‘protect’ the reputation of less than capable airlines and manufacturers.”
U.K. Independence Party leader Paul Nuttall called the decision “terrifying” and said, “‘The practice of having open records has helped ensure safety for passengers and gives them confidence when flying,” and said the policy goes against the normal principles of transparency.
The European Commission even publishes a list of airlines that are banned from operating within the country. Many of those are located in countries experiencing political unrest, or third-world countries with poor industry standards or accountability.
Paul Beaver also said, “The E.U. seems to want to protect the big companies — the manufacturers and operators. It is completely bizarre.”