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Experts to examine safety of Swiss aviation

Moritz Leuenberger says his ministry has its share of responsibility for the Überlingen crash

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland is to review its civil aviation safety system in the wake of the fatal mid-air collision of two jets in Swiss-controlled airspace.

The transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, said on Monday independent aviation specialists - probably from Germany or France - would be charged with carrying out the review.

The independent assessment is aimed at improving air traffic control and its efficiency, as well as reinforcing international cooperation.

A final report is expected by the beginning of next year. Leuenberger said the inquiry should pay particular attention to the responsibilities and interaction of the Federal Office for Civil Aviation, the aircraft accident investigation bureau, the transport ministry and the Swiss air traffic control agency, Skyguide.

"It would be inadmissable and intolerable if Skyguide made savings at the expense of safety," the transport minister said.

His remarks followed an attack by the Christian Democratic Party, which called on Monday for an independent inquiry into the surveillance of Swiss civil aviation.

The centre right party said it wanted to know if various aviation accidents that occurred in Swiss airspace in the past two years were due to problems at the transport ministry. It also submitted to the government a list of 50 questions about aviation security it wants answered by Parliament's next session this autumn.

Leuenberger said however many of the questions have already been answered in the past, and that others can have an immediate response. He said all remaining questions would have to wait until the end of the independent inquiry.

Share of the blame

Answering criticism of his ministry by populist right-wing politician Christoph Blocher, the Social Democrat minister said he accepted his share of the blame for the collision over southern Germany three weeks ago.

Skyguide, which is owned by the Swiss state, has been blamed in many quarters as responsible for the collision between a Russian passenger plane and a DHL cargo jet over Überlingen.

No one has been officially blamed for the accident pending the results of official inquiries, although legal proceedings have been launched in Switzerland and Germany against the lone traffic controller on duty in Zurich when the collision happened.

Germany’s air traffic controllers have however reaffirmed their support of their Swiss colleagues. Joseph Willheim, head of air security in Friedrichshafen, said on Monday that the collaboration with Skyguide is satisfactory and that no pilots have complained about the work carried out by Swiss controllers.

swissinfo with agencies

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