"Veiligheid luchtvaart is verantwoordelijkheid overheden en luchtvaartmaatschappijen"

Vliegtuigdonderdag 26 maart 2015 11:25

Europarlementariër Peter van Dalen (ChristenUnie/SGP) sprak vandaag tijdens een luchtvaartcongres op Schiphol over de MH 17 ramp en veiligheid voor de burgerluchtvaart. Van Dalen:

,,De veiligheid in de lucht is de verantwoordelijkheid van overheden en luchtvaartmaatschappijen. Die moet je niet in de handen van de passagiers leggen." Van Dalen riep de veiligheidsdiensten op met een waarschuwingssysteem voor luchtvaartmaatschappijen te komen. Van Dalen: ,,Het lijkt er op dat er Westerse veiligheidsdiensten waren die al voor 17 juli 2014 het vermoeden hadden, dat de opstandelingen in Oost-Oekraïne de beschikking konden hebben over zwaar luchtafweergeschut. Deze informatie had dan - in enige vorm - met de luchtvaartmaatschappijen gedeeld moeten worden."

Peter van Dalen was vandaag één van de hoofdsprekers van een congres op Schiphol over veiligheid voor de burgerluchtvaart van de International Foundation for Public Aviation (IFPA). In zijn toespraak was Van Dalen kritisch op het idee dat circuleert binnen de International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), luchtvaartpassagiers via een website over de risico's van hun vlucht te informeren. De Nederlandse regering lijkt positief te zijn over dit voorstel. Van Dalen: ,,Veiligheid in de lucht is de verantwoordelijkheid van de overheid en de luchtvaartmaatschappij. Of een vlucht wel of niet doorgaat én safe en secure is, daarover beslist uiteindelijk de luchtvaartmaatschappij. Die keuze moeten we niet via een website bij de afzonderlijke passagiers neerleggen. Van Dalen ziet meerdere problemen: ,,Een dergelijke website staat of valt met de informatie die erop verschijnt. Wie neemt het besluit welke informatie wordt toegelaten, en op basis van welke criteria? En hoe betrouwbaar en actueel is de toegelaten informatie? Dat wordt erg ingewikkeld."

Advies van veiligheidsdiensten

Van Dalen wil dat veiligheidsdiensten nog beter met elkaar samenwerken en informatie aan vliegmaatschappijen geven. De Europarlementariër, die lid is van de Transportcommissie van het Europees Parlement: ,,Natuurlijk hoeven veiligheidsdiensten hun geheime informatie niet tot in detail te delen, maar ze kunnen best zeggen: 'we adviseren niet over deze regio te vliegen". Dan snapt iedere luchtvaartmaatschappij, dat vliegen over zo'n regio te riskant is en er omgevlogen moet worden".

Vragen

Van Dalen heeft, net als vele anderen, nog veel vragen bij de toedracht en afhandeling van de MH 17 ramp. Waarom besloten sommige maatschappijen al voor 17 juli 2014 om Oost-Oekraïne heen te vliegen? Hadden vliegmaatschappijen als British Airways informatie van hun nationale geheime diensten die bijvoorbeeld KLM niet had? En waarom zijn in sommige landen uitgebreide en gedetailleerde briefings gegeven aan parlementariërs, zoals in de Duitse Bondsdag, maar niet aan parlementariërs in andere landen zoals Nederland? Van Dalen: ,,Laten we niet vergeten dat familie en vrienden van 298 mensen nog altijd rouwen om hun geliefden. We moeten alles op alles zetten om herhaling van deze tragedie te voorkomen. Dat kan alleen met de beste inzet van alle betrokkenen." Van Dalen voegde er aan toe dat hij hoopte, dat er ook snel duidelijkheid komt over het raadselachtige ongeval met de Airbus van GermanWings.

Onderstaand de (Engelstalige) speech van Peter van Dalen op het internationale congres:

Mister Chairman, dear guests

One of the tragic ironies of transport accidents is that we have congresses like these àfter the accidents took place. If only we could have discussed the issues before, lives might have been saved. So let us not forget this context of our present meeting: many families and friends of MH17 passengers still lament today since in total 298 people where killed on the 17th of July last year. And now new grieve has struck families and friends of the GermanWings victims.

What do we know about the MH17 crash? Not very much to be honest: various investigations are still going on. As former director of the Civil Aviation Enforcement division of the Civil Aviation Inspectorate I know: let us be cautious to draw conclusions before we have the results of these investigations.

This does not mean however, that we have to be silent altogether.  Of course I fully support the work that has been done so far by investigators and the teams led by Pieter Jaap Aalbersberg. We must find out who were responsible according to criminal for this tragedy, and these people should be prosecuted.

We do have a preliminary report from the Dutch Safety Investigation Board. The Board acknowledges that Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, that was by the way a flight code-shared with KL 4103, broke down probably due to external objects that damaged the plane flying at flight level 330 above eastern Ukraine on the 17th of July last year. With a devastating effect to all the people on board. But there was also a dramatic change in the lives for citizens in small towns like Hrabove and Rozsypne. They were confronted with many victims and bodies even lying on their doorsteps.

Furthermore we also know that in the weeks before the crash several planes and helicopters where shot down in the same area. That is why a NOTAM was issued with a temporary prohibition to fly below flight level 320 in the airspace over eastern Ukraine until the 14th of August 2014.

The search for victims proved to be very difficult: the crash site is located right in the middle of the battlefield where the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists are at war. Even today not all the remains of all passengers are found. This makes the crash even more painful: the victims are in and àfter their cruel death part of a lethal political game.   

On the 3rd of September 2014 the Transport Committee of the European Parliament organised a hearing about the crash. Many experts from the European Commission, the European Aviation Safety Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization and other bodies were present to answer questions from Members of the European Parliament.

Questions such as:

- although all airlines are equal, where some more equal then others and did some have more and better information;

- why did several airlines, such as British Airways, no longer fly over eastern Ukraine days or even weeks before the crash, while others, like Malaysian and KLM, continued to use that airspace;

- what did the Ukrainian authorities know or should have known about the risks to fly in their eastern airspace, and what information did they share with diplomats from European countries such as the Netherlands;

- how are airlines informed about safety threats in conflict zones;

- how is the exchange of information between security organisations and airlines;

etcetera.

The most striking element of this hearing was that the experts refused to answer many questions, including all the delicate ones. They all reminded the Members of the European Parliament that several investigations were still going on and that even their organisations where subject of these investigations.

The same goes for colleagues in the Dutch parliament: even until today they have many unanswered questions.  So it was quite a surprise for me to read that members of the German parliament received a very detailed briefing in November 2014, which included satellite information and pictures from the crash site.

While the investigations are still going on our discussion now should focus on the question: how can we prevent such a tragedy in the future? What to do with flights above war zones?

Within the ICAO the debate is now: should we explicitly warn travellers about possible dangers of flights over war zones? Shall we open websites with shared information about risks flying above certain areas?

Let me be frank with you: I do not like this approach.  We should not lay the responsibility of deciding whether or not to take off with a plane into the hands of passengers!  It is an obligation for either a bus company or a company flying airbuses ( and other aircraft types)  to give passengers a safe and secure ride!  

When I do understand well, a new website made by ICAO seems to be the new hope of the Dutch government. I myself do not expect many miracles from this website. Why? Since as it is with any website: what kind of information is put in, and how is that information judged?

Let us for one moment suppose that such a website was operational on the 1st of July 2014. No doubt that the Ukrainian authorities would have noted on that website, that they did close the eastern airspace below fight level 320. Next, Eurocontrol would than only approve flight plans taking into account flying above flight level 320. So the flight plan for the Malaysian Boeing would have been approved!

A difference might have occurred due to the press conference of NATO general Breedlove on the 30th of June 2014. Breedlove made public in that press conference, that pro-Russian separatists had heavy anti aircraft weapon systems.

This announcement, made in public, might have led to the decision of some airlines or passengers: we avoid the eastern parts of the Ukraine. But again: this information was public on the 17th of July 2014. And yet, the Malaysian Triple Seven flew above the eastern Ukraine. With or without website I would say!  

For me the key issue is: intelligence services should share information about security in airspace issues much better. Important information and risk assessments should be circulated among allied security services and in some form to all airlines. When there are doubts about airspace security, flights should be barred.

In the case of MH17/KL 4103 the partial opening of the Ukrainian airspace makes no sense to me. We know that insurgents nowadays can obtain all sorts of modern equipment: in conflict zones the risk is simply too much that they can reach planes even at the highest flight levels.

The difficulty of my recommendation is: the organisations that should provide information and risks assessments about airspaces are called: sécret services. They are called this way because they operate secretly and in secrecy.

Nevertheless, airlines should get adequate information from security services. These services do not need to give much detail but can simply say: we advise you not to fly over a certain area.

And when the information is incomplete, or when countries close their airspace up to a certain level, airlines should not take any risk and avoid flying over these areas. I know, this makes operations more difficult and more costly. But we can not and must not risk the lives of passengers. Passengers must have confidence: flying this plane is safe and secure, I can trust the operational airline.

So in the end it is all a matter of trust. Trust of the passengers. Trust guaranteed by the airlines. And if there is uncertainty, then a conflict zone is avoided by the airlines. We must not lay that decision into the hands of a passenger who has to decide: shall I fly with company A or B, or not at all.  That would be the world upside down with trust as a major victim.

Peter van Dalen, MEP for the ChristianUnion/SGP

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