Safety risks ‘higher due to airline competition’
17 August 2005
BRUSSELS — Belgian pilots claim that economic pressure for pilots to take off despite minor technical malfunctions with their planes has risen enormously.
The claim was made in reaction to a series of recent international plane crashes, the latest of which saw 160 people killed when their Colombian West Caribbean Airways plane crashed in Venezuela on Tuesday. It was the fourth crash in the past month.
Management of the Cypriot airline Helios also admitted on Tuesday that there had been problems with the air pressure system of the plane that mysteriously crashed in Greece on Sunday.
The pilot was allegedly aware of the problems, but decided to fly anyway. However, the glitch eventually proved fatal for the 121 people on board, Belgian newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reported on Wednesday.
And according to Belgian pilots, similar situations are now the norm: “The commercial pressure on the shoulders of pilots has enormously increased,” former Sabena pilot Filip van Rossum said.
He confirmed what many pilots indicated on condition of anonymity for fear of company reprisals, the newspaper reported.
“The profit margins in the aviation sector are paper-thin, the competition is murderous and the aviation industry is also sensitive to the rising oil prices,” Van Rossum said.
“Keeping an airline on the ground costs a handful of money and aviation bosses thus want their pilots to keep their planes flying for as long as possible. Pilots who are not prepared for this can expect problems.”
Pilots also dismissed statistics from the international aviation association IATA, which indicate that airline safety is improving. The pilots claim the figures are primarily due to the technical evolution of planes.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news