New decree on occurrence reporting in civil aviation

Juan Francisco Falcón.

10/10/2006 International Law Office

The regulation implementing the EU Occurrence Reporting in Civil Aviation Directive (2003/42/EC) came into force on February 22 2006.

Royal Decree 1334/2005 establishes how to report - on a mandatory basis - any occurrence (ie, any operational interruption, defect, fault or other irregular circumstance that has or may have influenced flight safety but has not resulted in an accident or serious incident) in civil aviation.

In line with the directive, the decree aims mainly to contribute to the improvement of air safety by ensuring that the relevant information is reported, collected, stored, protected and disseminated to prevent future accidents and incidents. However, also in line with the directive, the purpose of the decree is not to determine or attribute blame or liability. Thus, all information received by the Spanish civil aviation authorities must remain confidential. Moreover, the authorities shall refrain (except in case of wilful misconduct or gross negligence) from instituting proceedings in respect of unpremeditated or slightly negligent infringements of the law which come to their attention when they are reported under the mandatory system.

The decree will be applicable to occurrences in civil aviation affecting any Spanish aircraft (ie, aircraft registered in Spain) or any aircraft operated by an entity established in Spain, irrespective of whether the occurrence took place in Spain. However, the following will be excluded from the scope of the decree:

  • military aircraft;

  • airport and air navigation systems assigned to national defence;

  • national defence services;

  • national defence activities;

  • national defence premises; and

  • national defence personnel.

From the alternatives provided by the directive, the Spanish administration chose to vest in the civil aviation authorities the responsibility to collect, assess, process and store the information on occurrences which must be reported under the decree. To this effect, the persons who have a duty to report under the decree (who are the same as those set forth by the directive) shall do so within 30 days of the moment when they became aware of the relevant occurrence. The reporting obligation shall be complied with by means of an official form approved by the civil aviation authorities; the form must state that the report does not amount to an accusation and shall not lead to liability, except in case of wilful misconduct or gross negligence. In addition, the civil aviation authorities must ensure that the information collected through this system (which must be stored in their databases) is used only for the purpose of improving civil aviation safety through the prevention of accidents and incidents.

In that context, the civil aviation authorities must share the relevant information with the competent authorities of the other EU member states and with the European Commission. However, the decree allows the civil aviation authorities to refuse (by means of a grounded resolution) to disseminate this information when the purpose of improving civil aviation safety has not been evidenced, or based on legal or public interest grounds. Moreover, the databases where the information is stored shall neither include the name or address of specific persons, nor refer to any technical data (eg, the relevant flight code affected or the registration mark of the aircraft in question) which may lead to the identification of the reporting person or other third parties.

The decree represents another step towards improved regulation of civil aviation security and the harmonization of such regulation at EU level.

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