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Boeing is not part of the Helios air crash trial because of money involved

10 April 2013 / 18:04:20  GRReporter
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George Kikides is former head of flight operations of Cypriot Helios Airways whose Boeing 737-300 crashed near Athens on 14 August 2005. The crash killed all 121 people on board. Due to his poor health, George Kikides was unable to appear in court neither at first instance, nor when the verdict against the three employees of Helios Airways was appealed to the Court of Appeal. In anticipation of the decision of the Supreme Court of Greece, which is to be announced on 28 May 2013, we have contacted Mr. Kikides, who was kind enough to answer the questions of Maria S. Topalova.

    Could you please tell us how your health is right now, where you live and how you managed to pay the amount of money requested by the Greek government?

    I am currently in remission from cancer, which is generally five years. I try to maintain my health however stress is a worrying contributing factor. As previously advised all defendants paid the money requested from the Greek Government.

    What were the accusations against you at the trial in Athens?

    The accusations made against myself and all of the accused were the same. Ianko Stoimenov must have mentioned this to you. Basically we had two incompetent pilots and allowed them to operate on that particular date and caused the accident.

    As the Head of Flight Operations what were your responsibilities in the Helios company?

    Please ask Ianko Stoimenov as he has all the responsibilities regarding my post. Basically I was responsible to the law for pilots' licences and medicals being valid, flight time limitations as per JAR ops (Joint Aviation Requirement for the operation of commercial air transport - author’s note), rest periods and that all Training was completed as per JAR Ops' regulations. For all my responsibilities I had in place my collaborators, I.E Training Manager, Chief pilot, Training captains, Examiner Training Captains approved by the British Authorities and the JAA (Joint Aviation Authority - author’s note), Ground Instructors, CRM (Crew Resource Management - author’s note) approved by the UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority - author’s note) Instructors, Technical Pilot, Emergency and survival training personnel, Flight operations Control, Rostering officers and many other personnel.

    What did you do on the day of the accident?

    I was on leave with my family. After the tragic news I had to cancel everything and return to the Company's headquarters, Larnaca and assist the Emergency Team to deal with the accident as per the operations manual.

    According to the prosecutor and to the Greek judges the cause for the accident was the switch adjusting the pressurisation system in the "manual" rather than the "automatic" position. According to the defence the cause is a flaw in the design of the aircraft. What is your opinion, what is the real cause for this accident?

    According to the Canadian Experts known as the AIR team and who have a worldwide reputation as accident investigators, the PMS (pressure mode selector) was in the AUTOMATIC position and not in the MANUAL position as was thought by the Greek accident investigators. Thorough examinations conducted by the AIR team have revealed NEW evidence thus shedding doubt on what really happened. For the aircraft warning system design for such a major emergency to be incomplete and after numerous safety recommendations made by the IRISH and NORWEGIAN Accident investigators to the US FAA (Federal Administration Authority - author’s note) in 2003, well before the 2005 accident of Helios, the fact that BOEING still did not do anything to correct this UNSAFE condition, for such an emergency to have just a HORN to warn Pilots and that even the HORN was used for THREE different failures - all of this is disgraceful. But yet again it’s down to money thus compromising air safety.

    Do you have an explanation why Boeing is not a part of the Greek trial?

    MONEY. This accident for BOEING was classed as collateral damage. BOEING is NOT a CHARITABLE ORGANISATION, nevertheless they have paid 33% of compensation to the victims of this tragic accident. It was also established that they made every person receiving the compensation sign that they will have no claims from BOEING in the future. You may ask yourself why they did this.

    Do you support the idea of re-investigation of the causes for this tragic accident? How could a new investigation help in revealing the truth about the crash?

    Yes I greatly support the reopening of the investigation as the Greek  AAIASB (Greek Air Accident and Aviation Safety Board - author’s note) did not do a proper job of trying to find the truth and the real causes of this accident. It is a fact that the accident occurred but the WHY'S were never pursued by the Greeks. During the Cypriot trial many discrepancies became evident as to:

1. How the investigation was carried out by the Greek investigators?.      

2. Many omissions regarding scientific examinations of certain components at the BOEING labs.       

3. Vital components have been LOST very conveniently.

It is imperative when incidents or accidents occur that every avenue is fully investigated and exhausted to ascertain the cause so that this information can be used to prevent these incidents from reoccurring. Passenger and crew safety is paramount.

    In your opinion why did the Greek authorities deliberately refuse to re-open this investigation?

    In my opinion the Greeks are refusing to reopen the investigation because they are afraid to loose face, secondly afraid to have a head-on clash with the Americans for many reasons and thirdly the BOEING company is involved, surely fat payments to the Greeks investigators.

    How could the flight safety benefit from this new investigation?

    As mentioned before it is imperative that all accidents and incidents are fully investigated to ascertain the reasons why and determine how they can be prevented. Therefore reopening the Helios trial would ensure that the crash was investigated correctly and the information obtained would help prevent this tragedy from reoccurring. Address issues such as hardware, aircraft design and human factors. Ensure that pilots across the world in such difficult situations are better prepared in assessing a situation, acting and not getting confused by incomplete warning systems. This is Vital in air safety to learn from these tragedies.

    Do you consider the trial in Athens fair and impartial and why?

    Both trials in Athens were completely unfair and grave violations of our human rights have occurred.
 Firstly – for the Court of First Instance, to carry on the questioning of vital witnesses without the presence of our Lawyers, is unheard of.
 Secondly they did not want to hear what any of our witnesses and experts had to say about the new evidence that emerged from the Canadian experts and how the Company was running.
 The Greek accident team NEVER bothered to interview key personnel, UK Civil Aviation officials (CAA) who had an overview on how the company was run. They never bothered to interview on both occasions the Training Managers that were in place during the German Captain employment in 2004 and 2005. Lies regarding the training of both involved Pilots from their Greek so-called expert, in spite of numerous attempts by Ianko Stoimenov to show the court the JAR OPS regulations regarding Crew training and checking. The Greeks insisted that the Pressurisation exercise had to be completed 
every 6 months. This is not true and in accordance with the JAA regulations which as a company it complied with, every major aircraft system failure was to be completed in 3 yearly cycles.
 The appeals court never examined all the witnesses that gave evidence in the Court of First Instance. Only 4 witnesses testified and yet the final verdict was based on the Court of the First Instance, which is unheard off. We were never given the chance to bring all of our witnesses and experts to testify but it was only allowed for us to bring all witnesses to testify in one day.

    If we have to take a lesson from this trial how should the aviation accidents be legally and juridicalyl addressed. What would this lesson be?

    A lesson from this trial is firstly that ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation - author’s note) annex 13 (which states that, “The sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents. It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability” - author’s note), regarding aircraft accident has to be amended to cover all the eventualities. For instance re-opening of investigations. As it stands today, does only the country of occurrence have the right to reopen an investigation? Judicial systems should not be allowed to use 100% accident reports as the only means of prosecution. This trial has put aviation safety back into the dark ages. Everybody will be afraid to speak out in case they will be brought to justice.

Follow Maria on Twiter @MariaSTopalova

 

Tags: George Kikides Maria S. Topalova Helios air crash Boeing Ianko Stoimenov investigation
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