‘Every aircraft accident helps make flying safer’

«In air transport, it is certain that when everything is done properly, air passengers are safer than people sitting at home in front of their television sets,» says Thanassis Markou, an Olympic Airlines pilot with 10,000 hours of flying experience. He left no room for misunderstandings such as those created by the barrage of statements and theories after the Helios Airways crash near Athens on August 14. «A major private airline can create the conditions necessary for safe flights. It is the small firms that are often forced to buy services that they cannot cover on their own. That means additional, undesirable costs, and this is where flight safety could be compromised to a certain extent,» he said. «Authentic spare parts from major manufacturers, whether Boeing, Airbus or any other, are checked and certified. There are other manufacturers who have similar accreditation. The spare parts’ code numbers, their date of installation and the name of the manufacturer should all be recorded. Still, mistakes happen, even with authentic spare parts, but these are rare. Every airline has its own standards, but of course none of them want to have an accident.» Apart from the mechanical aspect, there is the human factor. «Twenty years ago, when we talked about a pilot’s ability, we meant his ability to land and take off safely and to fly in poor weather conditions. Today, aircraft have developed to such an extent as to make flying much easier when everything is going well. However, when problems occur, they demand much more of a pilot.» «When problems occur in flight, the pilot can first of all do some checks. If these don’t result in a solution, there are procedures set out in the manuals that refer to all known similar incidents. The pilot never improvises. Even if he does not resolve the problem, he can always contact his airline’s technical base where there are people who are experts in these systems. Even then, the pilot can decide whether to continue or to land at the nearest airport.» Markou is cautious about commenting on this most recent tragedy near Athens airport. «Since much has been said about what happened, I just want to say that the committee should be allowed to do its job. The people on the committee – Greek technicians, representatives of the manufacturers and others – have enormous experience in incidents such as this and can find out what happened. It is wrong for some of my colleagues to come out and express their views. No accident occurs without a reason, and in this particular accident there were a number of mistakes. When the report is published, it will show that dozens of serious mistakes were made by dozens of people. However, it must be said that every aircraft accident helps make flying much safer. We learn from them so as not to repeat the mistakes.