While news of the tragic crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 leads the headlines, such as:
Here: Asiana Decides Not To Sue San Francisco TV Station
Here: Passengers eye legal action against Boeing, Asiana
and Here: Asiana Pilots Hospitalized For Psychological Trauma, Injuries From SFO Crash
… a major court ruling in Athens deserves serious attention from those in the airline manufacturer, operations and maintenance industries.
Greek news outlets are citing “unofficial reports” and “court leaked information” that a five-member panel of the Supreme Court of Greece has confirmed the conviction of Bulgarian pilot Yanko Stoimenov, and two co-defendants, Dimitris Pandazis, President of the former low-cost Cypriot airlines Helios Airways, and George Kikidis, its former Director of Flight Operations.
All three were found guilty regarding the crash of a Helios Airways’ Boeing 737-300 on August 14, 2005 north of Athens (near Grammatiko, Greece) during a flight from Larnaka to Prague via Athens. All 115 passengers and 6 crew died. The crash investigation concluded that both maintenance crews and the pilots had failed to ensure the pressurization system was set to “automatic”, and as a result, the plane never pressurized, leaving the crew and passengers incapacitated due to lack of oxygen. The accident revealed many problems with safety of the airline and led to manslaughter charges against the airline officials.
[Note: In March 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration released an airworthiness directive requiring all Boeing 737 aircraft from −100 to −500 models to be fitted with two additional cockpit warning lights. These would indicate problems with take-off configuration or pressurization.]
First, in Cyprus, Helios Airways officials were charged with manslaughter for recklessly or negligently causing the crash, but the case ended with a dismissal for lack of causation for the tragic accident. Nevertheless, in April 2012, now in Greece, the above trio of defendants again faced manslaughter charges, this time resulting in a finding a guilty and 10-year sentences that were stayed pending appeal. That appeal has now concluded with this Supreme Court decision apparently affirming the 10-year sentences.
The Take Away
As word of this Supreme Court ruling passes through the airline industry and transportation unions, you can expect a loud outcry against this decision and opposition for the great reach of criminal liability, let alone civil liability, the Athens Court has confirmed!