ECA Owner Pays Court Experts to Refute Inspection Results: Planes Were Grounded by European Aviation Safety Agency?

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More on the latest on the Croatian seaplane story from the national media on October 19, 2016. 

After TCN’s article on aviation experts contradicting the findings of the Croatian Civil Aviation Authority and their decision to ground the European Coastal Airlines seaplanes on August 12, leading portal, which first broke the story which led to the inspection, today published an article relating to our publication yesterday. It is reproduced in full below, with the only addional comment TCN’s offer to make available copies of all four expert opinion and the original CCAA finding on request:

I have been living in Croatia long enough to know that there is much more to this story than meets the eye, and there are also news sites with a much better understanding of the workings of the Civil Aviation Authority than I do, so I will leave it to others to dig a little deeper into what is becoming rather an intriguing story. I am happy to share the full documents of each expert, as well as the decision of the Croatian Civil Aviation Authority. Please contact me on [email protected].”

So far, nobody has requested a copy of the documentation. The Index article:

After his fleet of seaplanes was grounded in August and after he failed to get them in order and ensure their airworthiness by the end of the season, Klaus Dieter Martin, a co-owner of the European Coastal Airlines, declared war on the Croatian Agency for Civil Aviation, which took away his license and grounded his planes, reports on October 19, 2016.

Immediately before the inspection, Index revealed a series of flaws in maintenance of seaplanes of the company which in just two years of intensive flying already had one plane crash with a horrible outcome – two pilots were killed, and the third one miraculously survived with serious consequences.

The Agency confirmed for Index that the complaint had been received, and that, quote, it basically comes down to items which have already been published in the media (contesting the findings and their impact on safety). The media also published information that the ECA co-owner was seeking 5.5 million kuna in damages as compensation for damages caused in August and September due to suspension of license. The Agency’s crisis communication consist of a statement that director Ante Lažeta “is not available to talk”, and that “the inspection findings are a business secret”.

On the other hand, Klaus Dieter Martin is obviously preparing for (partly media) war, and has launched a fierce offensive in a bid to present himself, for the umpteenth time, as a victim of Croatian bureaucracy.

He hired and paid four court experts for airplane crashes and published on a website close to him parts of their reports, which suggest that the irregularities which the Agency found on his seaplanes could not have been a sufficient reason for their grounding.

The experts have apparently analyzed the inspection findings, and only fragments of their conclusions were published.

Most of the argument draws on the expertise of Josip Milošević, who was surprised by the fact that parts of his report had been published in the media. He says he did not know they would be used for that purpose. He also emphasizes that it is not a finding which he made as a court expect, but “just” his expert opinion on the findings of the inspection.

“In my opinion, at least according to what it stated in its explanation, the Agency did not have the right to ground the entire fleet of seaplanes. Irregularities they have listed in their findings simply do not have that weight”, says Milošević for Index. Asked whether it was unusual that the Agency would ground a fleet out of pure whim, he replies: I think that the Agency was under pressure. They had been contacted by people from EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) because they also received complaints about the seaplanes. And then our guys reacted stricter than they, I think, should have”, said the expert who is known in the industry for having been in a conflict with the Ministry of Transport where he used to be employed, because they abolished his position.

He says that the price of a court expertise or an expert opinion depends on the number of hours spent and, quote, is substantially lower than you would have thought. “About two thousand kuna…”, says Milošević who did not want to say how much he charged Martin for his opinion.

According to their colleagues, the most prominent among the experts is certainly Srđan Čop, former chief inspector for air traffic, who used to work for the Agency himself so he has detailed knowledge about how it does its business.

The third of Martin’s expert, Stjepan Dehin, worked for a long time as a pilot, first at JAT and then at CA, however, he has a reputation for being a pilot who never managed to become a captain of an aircraft. He worked under contract for the Agency for Aircraft Accidents Investigations, and he gained his expert status from a colleague who never worked in the civil aviation sector…

The fourth expert who was hired by ECA is Ivan Obad, who according to our information, used to be employed at the Faculty of Traffic Engineering.

The Civil Aviation Agency, it can be inferred from the opinion of experts hired by European Coastal Airlines, identified 12 findings of which as many as 9 are level 1 findings.

According to the European Commission Regulation on the Continuing Airworthiness of Aircraft, level 1 findings apply to any material non-compliance with requirements which reduce safety standards and seriously affect the safety of flight. In the event of such a finding, the aircraft is grounded until the defects are removed. Level 2 findings include non-compliance with requirements that could reduce the safety standards and possibly jeopardize the safety of flight, and in that case it is not necessary to promptly ground the aircraft.


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