Safety Issues Play Minor Role in Public Tendering for Air Services Because of the EU’s Competition Rules - Airliner Veering Off the Runway During Landing Roll at Savonlinna on 7 January 2019

Published 10.12.2019  Updated 3.1.2020

The Safety Investigation Authority Finland has completed a safety investigation on an airliner veering off the runway during a landing roll at Savonlinna Airport on 7 January 2019. A Latvian A/S RAF-AVIA airline’s positioning flight with a Saab 340B aircraft from Riga veered off the runway into the snowbank during landing. Nobody was injured in the accident but the aircraft suffered significant damage.

The pilots did not consider aborting the landing even though it would have been justified in light of the facts established during the investigation.

The Safety Investigation Authority issues four safety recommendations to improve safety and to prevent similar occurrences:

Operator safety was not set as a criterion in the public tender for air services because the EU’s competition rules steer purchasers to carry out the process on financial grounds. Some tenderings have taken safety criteria into account in addition to the financial ones.

Therefore, the Safety Investigation Authority recommends that

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency explore and instruct how operators’ aviation safety and safety management performance, as criteria, can be used in tendering for air services, taking the EU’s regulations into account.

When it comes to purchasing air services as a public service obligation the ultimate client can be some other entity or organisation. These days air carrier safety is assessed during the air operator certification process. By advancing the consideration of safety in tendering for air services, it would be possible to create an additional safety-assurance practise, says Professor Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director of the Safety Investigation Authority.

Since there are no universal and straightforward indicators for assessing air carrier safety, the Safety Investigation Authority’s second recommendation is for

The European Commission to see to it that a process is created by which it becomes possible to impartially assess operators’ safety management performance and safety levels in tendering for air services.

Safety management performance means the combination of an appropriate safety management system and its practical implementation. The people making decisions in purchasing air services, or in subcontracting, do not necessarily know how to assess air operator safety. Rather, they count on the fact that the air carriers have valid EU air operator licences, adds Executive Director Nurmi.

Furthermore, some operators have significant shortcomings in flight safety. The oversight authorities should have the capacity, methods and competency to extend the audits to the implementation of safety management systems and to the assessment of flight safety, notes Janne Kotiranta, the Investigator-in-Charge.

Therefore, the Safety Investigation Authority’s third recommendation is for

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to ensure that the audits conducted by the EU Member States on operators also cover the practical functioning and performance of safety management systems.

The investigation also focused attention on the fact that flight data recorders (FDR) recording on magnetic tape are clearly less reliable than modern devices. Recordings that are of poor quality, or altogether missing, make it significantly harder for the safety investigation to establish the sequence of events.

The Safety Investigation Authority’s fourth recommendation is for

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to set a deadline for the use of flight data recorders recording on magnetic tape.

Annex 6 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation recommended that the use of magnetic tape FDRs and CVRs be discontinued by 1 January 2016. The EASA is the only body which can implement the ICAO’s recommendation. The EASA banned the use of cockpit voice recorders recording on magnetic tape effective 1 January 2019, but has not done the same for flight data recorders, says Janne Kotiranta, the Investigator-in-Charge.

More information:

Janne Kotiranta, Chief Air Safety Investigator, tel. +358 295 150 703

Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director, tel. +358 295 150 701

Investigation report