Ministry, cops team up for air accidents

Ministry, cops team up for air accidents

The Ministry of Transport and Royal Thai Police on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding to improve aircraft accident investigations.

Effective immediately, the MoU is expected to help the newly formed Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee (AAIC) investigate and collect data on aircraft accidents.

Until now, the police have been sole authority conducting aircraft accident investigations.

The AAIC was formed last September as an independent agency under the Ministry of Transport. Its role is to represent transport authorities working alongside the police and provide specific aviation data other than the forensic data available to police. The AAIC will also compile accident reports to be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

"The AAIC works quite well, but improvements are still need in terms of accessing information resulting from autopsies and other activities carried out by the police," said Pol Gen Wichian Pojphosri, a former RTP commissioner-general and permanent secretary for transport.

"Valuable information, such as alcohol or other substances being found in the systems [of pilots and other staff] during police autopsies, need to be given to the AAIC and that could be achieved through better coordination with the RTP,"said Pol Gen Wichian, who now heads the AAIC.

The idea of having an independent committee conduct investigations into aircraft accidents was born after the ICAO conducted aviation inspections on Thailand in 2015. The country was red-flagged by the aviation body in June 2015 for failing to fix significant safety concerns within a specified deadline.

The red flag was lifted last October.

As a member of the ICAO, Thailand needs to submit air accident investigation reports promptly -- something that Thai transport authorities have been slow in doing.

Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Weerachai Songmetra, said aircraft accidents were generally the responsibility of police located closest to an incident. But with the MoU, the RTP, AAIC and the Transport Ministry will be able to send officials to conduct investigations into each case, to prevent one agency from disregarding evidence that may be useful to another.

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