China seeks “whistleblowers” to plug aviation safety loopholes

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Airplane takes off at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s aviation regulator is seeking “whistleblowers” from the industry’s frontline workers to plug any safety loopholes, part of the government’s efforts to ensure safety after two recent major accidents including the deadly China Eastern crash.

In a document issued on May 19, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) urged frontline workers and grass root management officials, who are usually the first to spot weak links, to report their findings to airlines to prevent any safety hazards.

“It is of great necessity that we fully mobilise the vast number of frontline personnel – for them to be willing and dare to be a safety ‘whistle blower’, which would also be crucial in reversing the current unfavourable situation and maintain the stable operations of the industry safety,” the CAAC said in a statement on Friday.

On March 21, China Eastern flight MU5735 plunged into the mountains of Guangxi and killed 132 people on board in mainland China’s deadliest aviation disaster for 28 years. It led the CAAC to launch sector-wide inspections to find potential safety lapses.

However, less than two months later, a Tibet Airlines plane caught fire on the ground after pilots aborted a take-off in the southwestern city of Chongqing. All passengers were evacuated in time but dozens of passengers suffered minor injuries.

China is a stickler for aviation safety, after maintaining its strong safety record for more than a decade. The CAAC was the first regulator globally to ground the Boeing 737 MAX after two fatal crashes.

The CAAC on Friday said the whistleblowers would be rewarded and their identity protected through confidentiality agreements.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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