20th September 2018
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Balpa alters stance on release of black box data

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Balpa has put the brakes on its appeal against a release of flight data from the Sumburgh helicopter crash which killed four people in 2013.

The pilots’ union had previously taken a stand against Scotland’s top law officer following Frank Mulholland’s request for the aircraft’s data recorder to be swiftly passed on by the Air Accident Investigation Branch.

But it now says it understands the AAIB investigation is “well advanced”. The union has also highlighted “sensible conditions” which mean analysis from the data can only be undertaken under strict confidentiality.

It comes as chief executive of helicopter safety association HeliOffshore, Gretchen Haskins, has insisted hard lessons have been learned in the industry since the tragedy off Garths Ness took place – despite mounting cost pressures in the industry which recently sparked fears among union leaders that safety could be compromised.

In an unattributed statement, Balpa said the union’s concern over the release of the black box data had been one of timing.

“While pilots remain deeply concerned about the safety implications of this unprecedented legal intervention by the Crown in an ongoing safety investigation, Balpa understands that the investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Branch into the Sumburgh accident is now well advanced.

“Pilots fully understand it is difficult for the families of those affected by accidents to wait for this necessarily time-consuming investigation process to conclude.

“However, it is essential the AAIB is able to complete its painstaking, difficult and vital work without distraction.

“Pilots also need to feel unconstrained when giving their evidence and want to protect the trusted international agreement they have with specialist accident investigators.

“Given that, in this case, the AAIB has now completed the substantive part of its investigation and issued its draft report to interested parties for comment, Balpa will no longer contest the court’s ruling that limited cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder data may be released early to the Lord Advocate. The court imposed sensible conditions which mean analysis may only be undertaken under strict confidentiality and important non-disclosure and redaction caveats must also be observed.”

• For full story, see this week’s Shetland Times.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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