The Germanwings crash investigation shouldn’t set a precedent for future inquiries because it sought to assign blame before the probe was complete, a trade association representing the global airline industry says.
Airlines and aviation safety regulators have long-established procedures for investigating crashes that put correcting safety risks ahead of assigning blame, International Air Transport Association CEO Tony Tyler told reporters on Wednesday.
Investigating with the intent to punish risks a loss of transparency and openness, he said.
French prosecutors revealed within days of the crash that the cockpit voice recording indicated one pilot deliberately flew the plane into a mountainside, killing all 150 people on board.
The subsequent investigation has focused largely on the pilot’s history of depression and procedures at Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, for screening pilots for mental health issues.
“The circumstances of the investigation of the Germanwings accident have been highly unusual, and something that began as an accident investigation morphed into a highly public criminal investigation in which it seemed that every day new revelations were coming out,” Tyler said.
“This is a truly an extraordinary case in many ways, but it shouldn’t set a precedent for the future.”
The Paris prosecutor’s office said last week it was looking into claims that information was wrongly leaked to the media.
The move came after a lawsuit was filed by France’s leading pilots union, SNPL, over leaks about the crash investigation.
The union is claiming a violation of French law about keeping information about investigations secret while they are ongoing.
“I’m not going say that they anyone’s done anything wrong, but the important principle to bear in mind is that accident investigations should be conducted on a non-punitive basis,” Tyler said.
“When you have the possibility of punitive measures resulting from an accident investigation you then start to introduce unhelpful dynamics into the whole process where you risk losing the transparency, the openness” that’s needed “to identify what caused the event”.