From: Dr Peter B Ladkin <email@example.com> Date: 04 Feb 93 02:36:34 PST Followups: 1
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In Le Monde for Wednesday Jan 20th p15, there are two articles on the Air Inter crash. One states that the company president, M. Jean-Cyril Spinetta, has demanded that he be indicted on the same charges as his safety officer, M. Jacques Rantet. It seems also that the prosecution is trying to blame everything on the lack of a GPWS (specifically M. Rene' Pech, the public prosecutor of the Re'publique de Colmar, where the case will be tried). The second is a review and commentary by Alain Faujas. Blaming everything on the lack of a GPWS is an anticipable legal tactic, since that is what the Air Inter executives are being tried on. But it's hard to see how it would stand up for two minutes in a US court. The NTSB would only be able to call it a `contributory factor', since the agreed cause is controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), and when all instruments are working correctly, the only possible proximate cause of CFIT can be pilot error, according to the `standard' classification (which has been questioned in these columns, correctly in my view). I suspect a US court would therefore be bound to conclude pilot error. Further, since French law doesn't require the GPWS for internal flights, and there is as yet no question that the airline was operating in accordance with regulation, it's a mystery to me how the executives could be *criminally* liable for any of this. But I don't claim to understand French law, or the notions of responsibility enshrined therein. A further little legal puzzle. Air Inter has since been required to install GPWS. The article says that the transport minster at the time of the accident, M. Paul Quile`s, instructed them to do so. But they didn't change the law. Does all this mean that flying without GPWS is legal, but people will try to throw you in jail if you do? I perceive similarities between the technical aspects of the case, and those of the Viper case (which Devlin commented was an attempt to ask judges to decide what is a mathematical proof). It's a little harder to put it in writing. It's something like: human factors engineering + software safety questions + system design questions + lack of established engineering practice or terminology + humans in the loop ----> go to court to try to blame someone. If this is to become the system engineering process model of the 90s, it's going to put the field back 20 years. Peter Ladkin P.S. What on earth is the appropriate word for `anticipable'?