The European Aviation Safety Agency should issue rules on non-commercial flights of airliners, the French accident investigation agency, BEA, is urging.
The BEA issued the recommendation as part of its review into the Nov. 27, 2008 crash of an Airbus A320 off the coast of southern France. The aircraft was on a post-maintenance check-out flight before the A320, which had been operated by XL Airways Germany was returned to its owner Air New Zealand. Seven people died in the crash.
The BEA notes that in gathering information on this type of check-out procedure “the investigation has shown that the almost total absence of guidance or standards, was encountered in a wide range operators in the description of these flights.” No document spells out the skills pilots need to perform such a flight, it adds.
The lack of standards can lead to pilots improvising, inappropriate tests, and crew being task overloaded, the BEA warns.
As a short-term measure, the BEA wants EASA to require non-revenue flight to be authorized only with a case-by-case permission. Long-term, the French safety officials want EASA to spell out in the operational manual crew preparation, qualification and training, as well as the program and operational framework of the activity. Moreover, it wants EASA to say what type of non-revenue flights a European Union-licensed operator is permitted to perform.
In the case of the November crash, the crew had agreed to follow the procedure used to check-out a new A320 pre-delivery. The flight plan was modified, and a low-speed check at altitude was instead carried out during the approach to Perpignan where the crew planned a go-around before continuing to Frankfurt. The crash occurred during that maneuver.