International air safety aviation experts took a major stride towards blocking voluntary incident reports from being used by criminal prosecutors (or plaintiffs’ lawyers).
Last Wednesday, an arm of the United Nations recommended adoption of global standards that would shield voluntarily collected safety data from any future criminal proceedings stemming from an accident.
The recommendation made by the International Civil Aviation Organization is still subject to comments and changes but aviation experts are optimistic.
The package that was approved to move forward last Wednesday is the most progress ever made by ICAO in regard to international safety data standards.
Once a final approval takes place, the standards would be binding. Unfortunately, this approval could take many years.
Those who are backing the recommendation explain that when this type of data is used to argue a side in court, it discourages pilots and airlines from freely providing this sort of information.
The way it stands, standards that protect this type of aviation data varies widely from country to country. In the United States, Congress has strongly protected certain pieces of safety data from the Freedom of Information Act, while many judges have actually refrained from requesting this data.
For the very first time, the recommended proposal actually outlines how this data would be protected.
There are always two sides to every story, though. Those who oppose the recommendations argue that some of this data could be pertinent to a particular case or proceeding.
Some aviation officials feel so strongly that this proposal will be accepted that they are urging countries to implement certain changes in advance of the final ICAO action.
In the event that data does end up being released to a court the proposal would require a certain level of confidentiality from the public, according to the proposal. The package even foreshadows the creation of possible training programs for prosecutors and judges.