Air traffic controller found guilty of negligence by Swiss court

A court in Switzerland has found a skyguide air traffic controller guilty of negligent disruption of public transport.

The incident occurred at Zurich Airport on 22 August 2012 when a commercial aircraft operated by Darwin Airline took off while a private sports aircraft on a training flight was on approach. There was neither damage to property nor personal injury.

“Skyguide regrets this latest conviction of one of its air traffic controllers,” said the air navigation service provider.

“Safety is skyguide’s top priority. In order to ensure this, the safety culture practised at skyguide is crucial,” it said, “This ‘just culture’ is designed to ensure that mistakes that are neither intentional nor grossly negligent are not subject to disciplinary sanctions.”

“Skyguide is committed to this ‘just culture’. In this way, the organisation can learn quickly from mistakes and take measures to avoid them in the future. This leads to greater safety in Swiss airspace for all users.”

Skyguide said it would stand behind and continue to support the convicted air traffic controller. “His employment at skyguide is not called into question by the conviction,” it added.

Switzerland remains one of the few states that has chosen to deviate from international standards and recommendations – including those in the Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation – when it comes to using safety reports to trigger court cases.

Critics claim that the Swiss judicial system, limited as it is by a 1942 penal code which binds the courts to perform in a manner, is not beneficial to aviation safety.

International controller and pilot organisations said two similar judicial decisions in 2018 would impact air transport safety in and over Switzerland and called for an urgent review  in line with Resolutions 38-3 and 38-4 of the General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations IFATCA and the European Cockpit Association ECA, admitted to being ‘extremely disappointed’ at the conviction of two air traffic controllers in Switzerland last year when two air traffic controllers were convicted by the Federal Penal Court and by the Cantonal Court of Zurich for separate operational incidents.