Balpa appeals decision to release black box data
An appeal against a judge’s ruling that black box data from the Sumburgh helicopter crash should be released has been lodged by the pilots’ union.
Balpa says a rethink is needed over Lord Jones’ decision that key information from the Super Puma’s voice and data recorder should be handed over by the Air Accident Investigation Branch following a plea by Scotland’s top law officer.
Last month Lord Jones granted a bid by the Lord Advocate to gain access to the recorded information to help carry out investigations surrounding the tragedy.
Four people died when the offshore helicopter crashed off Garths Ness in August 2013.
Balpa had taken a stand against Frank Mulholland’s request for the data recorder to be made available.
The union had argued a culture of co-operation would be put at risk if pilots feared information provided to statutory investigators could be used against them in court.
Balpa has also renewed calls for a public inquiry to be held into offshore helicopter safety.
In a statement released today, the union’s general secretary Jim McAuslan said he sympathised for those who had suffered in the crash, but a broader issue needed to be considered.
“The 2013 Super Puma accident was tragic, and it is vital the AAIB gets to the root cause and has access to whatever data it needs,” Mr McAuslan said.
“However, providing the data to the prosecutor and the police in parallel to the AAIB’s investigation cuts across everything pilots and the broader flight safety community stand for.
“We cannot stand by while the court allows that to happen without pursuing other legal avenues to highlight our concerns and question whether it is the correct approach.
“There is a broader issue of public interest at stake here. Pilots are concerned the open safety culture it has taken decades to create, would be threatened if safety data is used to assign blame without air accident investigation specialists being given the time, space and resources to carry out their work fully.
“While the judge recognised he had a balancing act to perform, and that flight safety was important, we are not convinced he got the balance right in this case.”
Balpa have cited consideration which should, in legal cases such as this, be given to the so-called Chicago convention to help ensure the court has considered a properly balanced exercise.
The union insists a number of different public interests have come into play, such as the need to prevent further accidents.
Mr McAuslan added: “Sumburgh was one of a series of helicopter accidents in Scotland. Balpa has pressed for a public inquiry in to why this is so.
“Today we renew our call to the Scottish government, asking them to give political leadership and rekindle the transparency which Lord Cullen brought to the industry after Piper Alpha.”
Survivors from the tragedy last month insisted any hold-up in releasing the black box data would only prolong their misery in the aftermath of the crash.
Almost two years on from the crash, workers have described feeling unable to return offshore. They say they have been left in dire financial straits since insurance payments by helicopter operator CHC dried up in recent months.