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Analysis: Pressure grows for sensitive Belarus air safety probe By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Airport personnel and safety forces are seen on the tarmac in entrance of a Ryanair flight which was compelled to land in Minsk, Belarus, May 23, 2021. Handout through REUTERS

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By Jamie Freed and Tim Hepher

SYDNEY/PARIS (Reuters) – Pressure is rising for an neutral safety probe into the compelled touchdown of a Ryanair jet in Minsk, together with assessment of the airplane’s black containers – a transfer fraught with sensitivities over entry to proof, aviation specialists stated.

International condemnation of the scrambling of a fighter jet and using what turned out to be a false bomb alert to divert the flight to Minsk and detain a dissident Belarusian journalist has centered primarily on accusations of state-sponsored hijacking and rights violations.

But Europe’s aviation regulator stated on Wednesday that Belarus’s actions had additionally forged doubt on its capacity to offer secure air navigation, and a few worldwide officers are pushing for an investigation near the kind seen when a airplane crashes or one thing goes technically incorrect.

Opening such an investigation would take a look at a system of world co-operation that has usually labored easily for a long time, aviation specialists stated.

That’s as a result of below a world protocol referred to as Annex 13 Belarus, because the “state of occurrence”, would have the suitable to guide any bizarre safety probe with “unrestricted authority” over key proof such because the airplane’s black containers.

“The state of occurrence has the lead,” stated Michael Daniel, a former U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accident investigator. “However they are also the prime suspect in this case.”

A probe wouldn’t happen totally behind closed doorways. The United States, the place the Boeing (NYSE:) 737 was made, and Poland, the place it’s registered, could be accredited. And states with passengers on board would have entry to some data.

Lithuania, the vacation spot of the flight from Greece, has stated passengers included 94 Lithuanians, 9 French residents and 11 Greeks. Also on board was Russian citizen Sophia Sapega, the 23-year-old girlfriend of dissident Roman Protasevich, who was detained together with him.

Her presence on the flight might open the door to observer standing for Belarus’ closest ally in any investigation following regular safety probe guidelines.

RARE LOOPHOLE

Experts stated Sunday’s forcing down of the airplane in Belarus was amongst a handful of extraordinarily uncommon incidents which have uncovered a loophole permitting international locations accused of violations in their very own airspace to regulate a probe carried out within the typically gray zone between safety and safety.

Last 12 months Iran led an investigation into the taking pictures down of a Ukrainian airplane on its territory, blaming it on the error of a navy operator. But Ukraine and Canada criticised the ultimate report and family members questioned the probe’s impartiality.

The cockpit voice recorder has the potential to play an necessary function in any investigation if its two-hour loop retains a recording of communications earlier than touchdown.

Belarus launched what it stated was an extract of the air visitors management transcript on Tuesday, but it surely differed from extracts beforehand publicised on Belarusian state TV and in addition appeared to contradict statements from Minsk airport officers.

‘SERIOUS INCIDENT’

Belarus, which has blamed the diversion on an alleged bomb risk and accused the West of utilizing the episode to wage “hybrid war”, has invited U.S., European and worldwide aviation officers to affix it towards “acts of unlawful interference”.

But Europe’s warning might favour a probe on safety grounds. These fall into classes together with “accident” or “serious incident”.

“It’s definitely a serious incident, when you have air traffic control essentially lying to you to tell you that there is something that’s putting your aircraft at risk but it’s not clear why and you have to follow these aircraft and land here,” stated Mark Zee, founding father of flight advisory agency OPSGROUP.

Daniel, the previous FAA investigator, stated a extra worldwide method than typical was wanted to convey “credibility and objectiveness”, as occurred after the downing by missile of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine in 2014.

In that case, the vast majority of victims have been from the Netherlands, which led the probe with Ukraine’s permission.

“If the investigation is not going to be able to be freely investigated by the Belarusian authorities – and that seems unlikely given the nature of the event – then you would want some other country,” Zee stated.

“It may be an alliance of states that will say ‘we’ll investigate this to the best of our ability’.”

Airlines have referred to as for a broad worldwide probe.

The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is convening an pressing assembly of its 36-member council, which has some scope for fact-finding investigations, on Thursday.

“All the aviation authorities will take it seriously because it is unprecedented and it goes to the integrity of the air traffic management system,” aviation lawyer John Dawson stated.

“The whole thing about the air traffic management system is that everything is designed for a safe and efficient way to land an aircraft. When it becomes political, to get hold of a political opponent, it is obviously counter to that aim.”




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