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live A flaw in the design of Boeing 737-300 was the cause of the crash of Helios Airlines

24 January 2013 / 14:01:47  GRReporter
9007 reads

Maria S. Topalova

A flaw in the design of Boeing 737-300 was the cause of the crash of Helios Airlines as stated by Stelios Voudouris, the defender of Yanko Stoimenov, in the Court of Appeal in Athens. At today's meeting, the three-member panel of the court heard the defenders of the four employees of Helios Airlines accused of the crash on 14 August 2005, which killed 121 people. Voudouris requested the removal of the indictment and the complete acquittal of Helios’ staff.
    None of the defendants appeared at today's meeting and were represented by their defenders. Stelios Voudouris, who represents three of the defendants – executive manager Dimitris Pandatzis, director of flight operations George Kikidis and the first pilot Yanko Stoimenov, started his pleading first. All three are accused of allowing the two pilots to take control of the fatal flight although they were not well trained and showed intolerable negligence to each other as alleged in the indictment of the prosecutor.

The pleading of the defender lasted one hour and 45 minutes. On the basis of the thesis-antithesis principle of opposition, he considered all the arguments of the prosecution emphasizing the difference between the facts and the hypotheses. "I cannot prove that I am not an elephant. I can only present you with the facts and you will make your decision," the defender turned to the court with these words.

1. The training of pilots – the commander, the German pilot Mertel, was required to take exams three times by three different companies in the last two years before the fatal crash. Helios was one of those companies. He passed the exams all three times. The last one was two months before the crash. Assistant captain Haralambos was also required to regularly undertake verification tests, the last one being less than six months before the crash.

2. Professional skills – both of them were experienced pilots and had a total of 23,500 flight hours. They were among the most highly-paid pilots of Helios Airlines precisely because they were professionals. One of the charges against the employees of Helios is that Haralambos was not very capable since he was already 50 years old and still only an assistant captain. "Haralambos began working as a mechanic. He became a second pilot at the age of 40. He started to fly relatively late. This is the reason for him being only an assistant captain at the age of 50. It makes no sense for him being so well paid if he were unable. Why would the company keep him on if it could hire a more capable person for twice as low a salary?" stressed the defence.

3. The personal intolerance between the two pilots – according to Stelios Voudouris, this accusation is based only on statements made by Haralambos’ widow. He recalled her words which she had said just a day after the tragic accident, when she proclaimed something else: "I do not know Mertel. I've heard nothing about him. My husband has never mentioned him." However, quite to the contrary, the two pilots actually often flew together. They had nine joint flights in 2005 alone, the tenth being the fatal one.

4. Another argument of the prosecutor is that since Helios was a low-cost company, it had lower requirements for flight safety. "A low-cost company means that there is no business and first class, there is only tourist class and to save costs on the aeroplane time off, the company chooses" difficult" hours  of departure - early in the morning or late in the evening," explained the defender before the judges. He recalled that the worst aeroplane crash that killed 580 people was KLM’s. Air France, all U.S. airlines and even the Greek Olympic, whose aircraft killed more than 200 people, including a Greek deputy foreign minister, have had serious accidents in their history. So, unfortunately, aviation accidents are not a patent only of low-cost companies.

5. Because the pilots had made a mistake, it means that they are unskilful. Here, Stelios Voudouris gave many examples showing unfortunately that even the most experienced and skilful pilots are at the risk of making mistakes that can cause many deaths. The latest example is the helicopter, which crashed into a crane in the centre of London and killed the two people on board. A pilot of the Royal Air Force, which had been doing this for the past 15 years, operated it; he had been a stuntman and appeared in the films of James Bond as well. The Polish pilot of the plane that crashed in Russia with the President, Vice President and half of the Polish government on board was also a military pilot with great experience. Such was the pilot of the previously mentioned KLM’s flight.

Tags: Yanko StoimenovStelios VoudourisHelios AirlinesPlane crashCourt of AppealAthens
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