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Swiss ATC with reduced capacity (and VFR suspension ZRH and BSL) due to irresponsible convictions of ATCOs.

Folks, a head up for those who consider flying to Switzerland these days:

Swiss ATC is operating with reduced capacity at the moment as a consequence of a scandalous verdict reached against an ATCO who was involved in an Airprox. Currently, at least 5 Swiss ATCO’s are being threatened with or have received massive sentences due to various incidents which happened in the last several years. This implies that any of them charged or actually sentenced will no longer be able to work as an ATCO.

Consequently, Zurich and Basel (which is French ATC but nevertheless) have as one measure issued NOTAMS suspending VFR operation from and to the airports totally (LSZH) and for non based airplanes (LFSB). Equally, capacity for the upper airspace has been reduced and it is expected that further reductions in capacity are going to happen.

The relevant NOTAMS for VFR_
LSZH B0893/19 – VFR FLT SUSPENSION DUE TO ATC CAPACITY. 04 JUL 14:01 2019 UNTIL 11 JUL 13:00 2019. CREATED: 04 JUL 14:02 2019 

B)2019JUL02 0833 C)2019SEP02 2359
E)AD PROHIBITTED TO NON BASED VFR FLIGHTS

Most aviation folks in Switzerland fully agree that the ATOC’s need to take retributory action: In fact, the way that the Swiss prosecutors treat any incident these days would allow only one consequence, namely a total shut down of the Swiss airspace system. NOBODY is fault free but that is exactly what the prosecutors demand by charging a growing number ATCOs involved in airproxes or similar incidents with criminal neglicgence as well as also criminalizing pilots who were involved and survived accidents without damage to human lifes. This is a massive violation of ICAO’s annex 13 and totally contra the Just Culture EASA and ICAO propagate.

However, I consider it very unlucky that the only operating restriction so far are VFR planes. From a logical point of view, clearly they are the weakest link, but from the stand point of what is going on here, if the ATCO’s want to make a statement, shutting down a major airport over some hours in the holiday season would work much better for the attention of the population, many of whom are not aware of what is going on with the justice system in this country and how it can hit them in other instances as well.

To visiting pilots I’d have to say it may well be advisable to be very careful operating here at the moment. Clearly safety is massively compromised by the fact that ATCO’s apart from the normal pressure these people face are now under the knowledge that any mistake how ever minor they make can land them in a criminal investigation, despite EASA and ICAO rules to the opposite. For me, this makes this job almost unmanagable. Pilots, ground staff and others will have to realize that the usual protection of Just Culture in Switzerland will NOT protect them in any way from prosecution.

Maybe it is time that the Swiss aviation scene finally stands up and declares a nationwide shut down and strike to stop this madness. They would have my blessing.

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 05 Jul 19:37
LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

Pilots, ground staff and others will have to realize that the usual protection of Just Culture in Switzerland will NOT protect them in any way from prosecution.

Exactly. (EU) No 376/2014 protects individuals who report their incident from prosecution, except if negligence played a role. Now if the courts view any incident as an act of negligence, I’d say good bye Just Culture. As a pilot, I reported very actively in the past (www.aviationreporting.eu), but now it feels like anything I say could be used against me.

Last Edited by ArcticChiller at 05 Jul 19:54

This reminds me of what happened to mountain guides over the last 10 years, across the Alpine nations. Mountain Guides go through a rigorous multi year training program before they can take clients climbing or ski touring. At their clients request they venture into dangerous territory. With the best will in the world bad things, such as avalanches do happen and people die guides included. The clients are completely aware of this, they know the risks. Nevertheless there has been a trend to prosecute guides who are involved in accidents, ie criminalising activity between fully consenting adults. Completely unwarranted.

Upper Harford, United Kingdom

Yes, but the equivalent here is an avalanche that misses the group by 2 km and gets arrested by a safety barrier, and the judge then saying it was irresponsible for the guide to take his clients there, because had they been 2 km closer AND had there been no barriers, someone MIGHT have been hurt.

Very appropriate example RWY20.

All of the cases now under way against ATCO’s in Switzerland are like that: They were incidents where the safety net prevented a bad outcome and actually proved that the safety net works. All the ATCOs now deemed criminals by the courts followed the just culture procedures and duely reported and helped investigate the reasons why it happened, thereby helping to prevent re-occurrences. And they now pay the price for that by being convicted for negligence and for “disturbing the public air traffic” like an unruly passenger or even a hijacker.

But also pilots have suffered this kind of treatment. Two friends of mine were involved in a mid air a few years ago, all concerned got away with the shock of it. The report by the STSB pointed out that it was very difficult for them to spot each other but nevertheless pointed out that the reason for the collision was a lack of airspace surveillance. All of them participated in the inquiries to help understand the accident. The result: ALL 3 Pilots in the 2 airplanes (both PIC’s and the CRI on one of them) got sentenced to huge fines and have a criminal record now. One of them has passed away since.

Swiss pilots and people operating in Switzerland have to be clear on the fact that the most minor incident can cause this kind of retribution. It has to be pointed out that this is neither the STSB nor the CAA/FOCA doing this, it is the public prosecutors who have changed the decade long practice not to prosecute unless severe negligence could be proven. Today, they prosecute ANY mistake made that they get their hands on. And in aviation, these are neatly documented by the Annex 13 reports issued by the STSB.

ArticChiller is right, European law protects individuals like this, but Switzerland appears to have gone a different way. Maybe this needs to be challenged in the European Court for human rights, but that result would take years. In the mean time, the only thing feasible is to avoid flying there. Many of us don’t have a choice as their airplanes sit on an airport where the VFR suspension virtually blocks them or rather expells them. I just lost my homebase unless this restriction gets lifted, which is unlikely. This move btw was NOT issued by the local ATCO’s, two of whom I talked to yesterday but as a “safety measure” by skyguide as a company. They should be clear on the fact that this will punish and consequently alianate a lot of private pilots who stand fully behind the convicted ATCOs who are people we esteem and want to help.

LSZH, Switzerland

This, quite frankly, is disgusting. What (if any) is the reasoning behind this changed attitude by the public prosecutors?

172driver wrote:

What (if any) is the reasoning behind this changed attitude by the public prosecutors?

One of the leading figures in this has recently expressed the opinion, that radical punishment will increase the awareness with the workers of the consequences of any mistake and wrongdoing and therefore will “motivate” them to be more careful.

I do not think I need to comment this “javerian” attitude.

LSZH, Switzerland

One of the leading figures in this has recently expressed the opinion, that radical punishment will increase the awareness with the workers of the consequences of any mistake and wrongdoing and therefore will “motivate” them to be more careful.
I do not think I need to comment this “javerian” attitude.

Not saying any of this is justified but how, logically, is it different from this? AFAICT it is exactly the same. And same as this argument.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

how, logically, is it different from this? AFAICT it is exactly the same

If you are convicted of a crime a ATCO will loose his qualification as a controller, you will end up in the register of criminals which will cause other problems and so on. For a PPL the costs of the whole procedure will almost certainly mean financial ruin. As a professional pilot, you may have problems getting your license renewed and a relatively minor incident may ruin your career even though the safety net has worked to perfection. One of the pilots involved in the airprox was also convicted btw but apparently decided to better pay his fine and not appeal, don’t blame him seeing this outcome.

A slight difference in consequence than having to attend a course or pay an administrative fine.

If any of the people involved here had gotten away with an administrative process, the whole story would never have gotten so much out of hand. If you want to really compare it, then how would you feel if infringers were out of principle tried in public at Old Bailey?

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 07 Jul 07:42
LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

One of the leading figures in this has recently expressed the opinion, that radical punishment will increase the awareness with the workers of the consequences of any mistake and wrongdoing and therefore will “motivate” them to be more careful

So he single handedly initiated a witch hunt and no one or nothing could stop him? Sounds very medieval. Surely there has to be some more to this?

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