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Airline pilots are the ones who are most frequently singled out for prosecution. Airline pilots sign for and assume command of their aircraft, passengers, and cargo before leaving the gate. To a large degree, airline pilots are typically the last individuals in the event chain who might be able to alter the outcome. Simplistic reasoning presumes that an airline incident or accident that does occur must be the flight crew’s fault. In addition, they always end up at the scene of the mishap, alive or dead, and so are physically accessible targets for blame.

There has never been a more pressing time – following the Linate, Überlingen, Tuninter and recent Concorde and Helios court decisions – to consider aviation law, civil and criminal liability and the criminalization of aviation professionals.

Potential hazard

  1. Reduction in normal incentives to perform research that may reveal possible design defects and operational errors
  2. Reluctance to file safety reports, thus reducing the possibility of learning from occurrences.
  3. Industry members taking a more defensive rather than co-operative attitude towards regulators.
  4. Disturbance of the open atmosphere in which industry and authorities jointly discuss safety issues.

In an era of pro-active risk management, a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the major threat to the aviation industry, criminalisation, of design or operational activity is required

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