Questions over the safety of foreign-registered aircraft in the wake of the Cork air crash report were raised in the House of Keys.
Liberal Vannin leader Peter Karran (Onchan) claimed a whistleblower’s concerns had been ignored and called for a confidential hotline be set up to investigate any complaints of irregularities or breaches of regulations.
But Chief Minister Allan Bell said officers had studied the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit report very carefully and are satisfied there are no actions required by the Manx authorities.
He said the Civil Aviation Authority has regulatory oversight for the Isle of Man and the island is bound by EU legislation. ‘If members have specific concerns, they are welcome to submit written details to the Director of Civil Aviation,’ said Mr Bell.
He said there is already provision the Employment Act 2006 to protect whistleblowers who raise concerns about breaches of legal obligations or health and safety issues. Mr Bell said aviation professionals are required by legislation to report potential safety concerns.
Six people died when an aircraft operated on behalf of ticket seller Manx2 crashed in thick fog on approach to Cork airport after flying from Belfast in February 2011. The AAI’s final report published last month highlighted nine areas which led to the tragedy including crew tiredness and poor operational decisions.
It found ‘systemic deficiencies at the operational, organisational and regulatory levels – such deficiencies included pilot training, scheduling of flight crews, maintenance and inadequate oversight of the operation’ by the Spanish operator Flightline and the state of registration.
But in the Keys Kate Beecroft (Lib Van, Douglas South) said a whistleblower had raised concerns back in December 2009 about a pilot’s long duty hours, allegedly of nearly 14 hours and her colleague Mr Karran claimed those concerns had been ignored.
Mrs Beecroft said that four of the AAI report’s 54 conclusions related to tiredness and exceeding flight and duty times.
Mr Bell said he could not comment on issues with which he had no involvement. He suggested Mrs Beecroft should have given advance notice of her question which he branded ‘silly’.
That brought a swift response from Mr Karran who said: ‘To try and make out that this is a silly question belittles the whole seriousness of the situation.’
Economic Development Minister John Shimmin said his department has not made any changes to policy as the AAI’s report does not contain any safety recommendations relating to the Isle of Man. This was not surprising as ‘none of the contributory causes identified involve the Isle of Man or the ticket seller’, he said.
Mr Karran said his concern was about the operation of ‘virtual airlines’. But the Minister said Mr Karran talked about virtual airlines as if they were something untoward. He said this sort of ‘misinformation’ was damaging to the island’s credibility.