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Dublin: 14°C Thursday 7 July 2022

TD stops pilots from giving testimony after they raise problems with aviation regulator

The chair of the Oireachtas Transport Committee adjourned the meeting to a later date.

Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd, chair of the Oireachtas Transport Committee.
Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd, chair of the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

THE OIREACHTAS TRANSPORT Committee was stopped after concerns were raised about allegations made by the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) in relation to aviation safety.

Committee Chairman Fergus O’Dowd said he was not happy to allow the meeting to proceed until he had a full copy of the opening statement of what was going to be said.

Captain Evan Cullen of IALPA claimed the Irish Aviation Authority does not respond to complainants who raise safety concerns with them.

He said that when a report is made about aviation safety, the IAA does not have to tell the individual whether an investigation has taken place, or what the outcome is of their complaint or if there it is investigated.

“There is no outcome. There is nothing.

“Information on safety provided to the IAA goes into a black hole,” he said. He pointed out the organisation is not subject to oversight by any ombudsman and the group is not subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

At this point the O’Dowd interrupted and said:

You’ve made very serious charges about our regulator.You are saying that when complaints are made to them, that they do not respond and it’s a black hole.

“I think to be honest I’m not happy with this process right now, safety is such a huge issue,” said O’Dowd who told the committee he would prefer to see a written submission from IALPA, which he would then circulate to members and the IAA before holding another meeting of the committee.

Solidarity-PBP TDs Brid Smith and Mick Barry voiced their objections to postponing the meeting, adding that the pilots had waited for over four hours to be heard, and pointed out that the group circulated documents to all committee members about their concerns with the IAA prior to the meeting.

Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster said she raised the issue of complaints with the IAA when they were in with the committee earlier that afternoon.

Earlier today Munster asked the IAA representatives if they were satisfied that airlines carry out internal safety reports.

She also asked if concerns of safety issues and safety reports sent to the IAA get a standard response. Noting the correspondence committee members had been given by the pilots, she said it claims complaints made “got no further” and there is no follow up. Munster asked the IAA to outline their procedure in following up on concerns submitted to them.

Munster also asked the IAA representatives if it believed pilots had confidence in the organisation, adding that she knew they were not obliged to answer, but pointed out that correspondence received by pilots would suggest they don’t.

Replying to the questions earlier today, Captain Maurice O’Connor of the IAA told the committee that safety reports from the airlines are inspected on a weekly basis, typically on a Monday and if there are any concerns they are taken to the senior management group within the IAA.

The safety reports are scored under an internationally recognised system, which is recognised “as one of the best”.

He clarified for the deputy that the IAA responds to both reports from airlines and individuals that report concerns.

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“From a safety report point view, we do react to each individual and each airlines report,” he said.

Munster pointed out there is a difference between the word “react” and the word “respond”. She said she wanted to know if the IAA responds to each report by an individual.

“If you want to use the word respond, then we respond,” he clarified.

“And do you respond to the detail in the report or is it a standard response,” she asked. He said the IAA absolutely responds to the detail in each report made to them, adding that each report is categorised.

“We have a record going back to 2012. I am very confident of that,” he said.

O’Dowd adjourned the meeting stating that both the IALPA and the IAA will be invited to return to the committee at a later date.

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