The BEA activity report is mainly aimed at two categories of reader: those reading the report now and those reading it in the near or more distant future out of historical interest.
Whilst those reading the report now are fully aware of the current context, it is perhaps important to remind those who will read this in the future that, globally, and for the civil aviation community in particular, 2020 was what is commonly referred to as an “annus horribilis”. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic resulted in a number of Governments implementing lockdown measures and travel restrictions - notably international travel - resulting in a dramatic decline in commercial air traffic of around 70%, and periods of total or partial grounding of general aviation flights.
Whilst this situation interfered with the BEA’s operation, overall it maintained its level of activity due to the commitment and versatility of its staff.
The number of investigations opened, and especially accredited representatives appointed to foreign investigation authorities certainly fell, but we were able to redeploy staff to work on on-going investigations. At the same time, the decline in the number of investigations opened was not as sharp as we had expected due, in particular, and contrary to what was happening in commercial aviation, to the fact that general aviation activity was relatively unaffected, with periods of national lockdown being offset by an increase in activity, and unfortunately also an increase in the number of fatal accidents during unrestricted periods.
I wanted this activity report to provide a detailed description of the organisation adopted during the first lockdown period, from 17 March to 10 May 2020. This description appears in the form of focus sections in the different chapters. The organisation, which was implemented rapidly, was based of course on nearly all of our agents working from home and sometimes requiring a number of adaptations. At the end of the first lockdown, the organisation was adapted during the interim periods, and then as health measures were stepped up.
Overall, the BEA’s activity for this unusual year is finally quite positive. We published a record number of investigation reports, the stock of investigations in progress was considerably reduced, and the average duration of investigations was shortened. The BEA’s performance indicators notably improved.
In terms of quality, the BEA, like all civil aviation players, of course questioned how the health situation and the drop in activity would affect safety. In terms of general aviation, an initial analysis of the investigations opened does not appear, at the moment, to suggest any specific trend. In terms of commercial aviation, we note several incidents where the health situation can be considered to be a contributing factor, although, up to now, the consequences have been kept under control or to a minimum. It is possible that these somewhat reassuring elements are the result of a collective awareness of the risks associated with this exceptional situation, and of the different actions introduced by safety stakeholders to prevent or limit them, notably through SMS and SSPs. In any event, we must remain cautious as, at the time of writing this report, air traffic is still at very low levels, and a date when normal levels of activity can resume is still unpredictable.
Director of BEA