Spanair crash investigation is descending into a farce.

With the announcement yesterday by the Commercial Pilot Association that the investigation is “ruined”, and the attempted resignation of their representatives to the Air Investigation Board, the investigation into the Spanair Madrid -Canary Islands crash has descended into a complete farce.

The sole reason for establishing an Air Accidents Board is to find out the true cause of the accident. Not to proportion blame. That is for the later judicial reports and the Public Prosecutors, if applicable. At this stage they need to work, unmolested by public uninformed gossip, in order to find out why the plane crashed and to make the necessary reports public in order to prevent a repetition of this crash in the future. But this investigation has turned into a back biting, political blame shifting, corporate evasion squabble. Expert scrutiny and peer revised evidence building by professionals has been replaced with the manipulation of the press and public by the concerned parties.

All of the evidence of the crash has been leaked, despite the judicial secrecy laws and promise from the Investigating Judge to punish anyone caught tampering with the evidence. The CPA has made an official complaint saying that the government has made “no effort” to keep the information secret.

The preliminary prereport of the accident – designed to do no more then catalog the timeline of the crash to aid the investigators – has been leaked together with confidential off the record comments by the investigators, and is being presented as the “definitive” report. Do you honestly expect the investigators to make any off the cuff notes, designed perhaps as personal speculation, if they think that they will be presented to the press as their official notes?

One after another, witnesses and experts have been sidelined, fired, resigned or dropped.

The focus of the investigation has been shifted – while technical investigations of the crash go quietly ahead, rampant speculation in the press has already forced the politicians to start publically commenting on the possible causes of the crash, potentially locking their employees into making back covering future statements.

And we’re going to end up with the blame being shifted onto the (potentially) innocent pilots, instead of the (potentially) culpable government air board, the maintenance of the planes, lack of safety training or any one of the potential reasons for why that plane crashed. Which means no unpleasant political comeback. No unpleasant corporate responsibility lawsuits. And no steps taken to ensure such an accident is never repeated.

The investigation of an air crash is a long, costly, patient process. But it is always carried out, in an independent, balanced and peer reviewed manner, in order to find out the true reasons for the crash, and to force any changes in the planes, training or institutions needed to keep us (you, me, them) safe when in the air.

And if the process is allowed to be manipulated in this way we end up with everybody smelling of roses – and more planes potentially allowed to fall out of the sky.

Latest from Spanish news sources about the Spanair Madrid crash (news.google.es)

later Judge Juan Javier Perez of Court 11 of Madrid sent the Guardia Civil to the El Pais newspaper HQ to seize all copies of the video of the crash, which is protected under judicial secrecy until the conclusion of the investigation. El Pais says that the video was sourced from a legitimate source and is protected by the right of the free press under the Constitution, etc. It is interesting to note that Ideal.es illustrates the story of the seizure of the video (here) by putting the banned video in its story. So lets forget about stopping the video getting out, it’s out, and concentrate on who had the most to gain by leaking it.

The PP claim it was the Minister of Development (Fomento), Mrs Maria Dolores de Cospedal, who leaked the video, a claim rejected by the government (and El Pais, who should know) as “unfounded” and “untrue”.

Meanwhile, in light of the leaks, the Air Investigation Board has put back the timeline for the publication of the preliminary report, citing “immense difficulties directly due to the leak”, according to El Diario de Leon. It’s a farce, I tell you.

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