Just a few questions I'd like to throw open to the floor. I'm not convinced that an airline blacklist is going to make any difference to air transport safety. I'd appreciate your thoughts on the following:
What criteria will be used to put an airline on a blacklist?
Even the 'best' carriers can be picked up on potential safety lapses, depending how closely you look. Is unsigned paperwork evidence of slack safety? Or does a wing have to fall off first?
The SAFA programme, which has been used in Europe to perform spot-checks on carriers, only concentrates on technical oversights on single airframes. Is that enough to ban an entire fleet?
And what about non-technical criteria? Since poor crew resource management and crew error are still playing a huge role in the accident chain, these must surely be taken into account when deciding how 'safe' an airline is - and therefore whether the carrier is included on a blacklist. How should this aspect be measured?
We might think it's "obvious" that British Airways shouldn't be on the list, and certain other airlines should, but a blacklist can't be defined by gut feeling - there have to be clearly-defined reasons.
Start trying to define those reasons and it quickly becomes a difficult task.
What happens when safety conflicts with political interests?
Would a government really be prepared to ban an airline from a country with which it has strong political or trade links?
Can you imagine Spain or Portugal banning a Latin American carrier? What happens if that Latin American state responds with its own unilateral blacklist and, using a minor oversight as an excuse, bans Iberia or TAP? Who really ends up under the most pressure?
Is there any reason to believe it would be effective?
Think about this: How many of the airlines involved in the recent accidents - Air France, West Caribbean, Tuninter, Helios Airways, TANS - would realistically have been on a blacklist before their recent accidents?
Would anyone have committed the resources to audit West Caribbean? Even if they had, would they have declared the airline unsafe? French authorities declared Flash Airlines safe before the Sharm El-Sheikh crash - it seems unlikely, therefore, that Flash would have been on any French blacklist.
Since a blacklist is designed to save lives and pressure carriers into improving safety, adding an airline to a blacklist only after it's had a fatal accident makes the exercise completely pointless. The passengers are still dead and the airline has all the pressure it needs.
Besides - if passengers start avoiding carriers on blacklists, then you can draw only one logical conclusion: passengers will start dying only on airlines which are not blacklisted. And then where do you go?
[Edited 2005-08-27 14:15:14]