GATCO provides its members with legal cover and representation up to £250,000, arguably being the most important professional benefit for the majority of our members. When something goes wrong, whether or not there has been any error by the person, legal representation could be needed. The cover provided by GATCO goes beyond your employment, protecting your professional career and your and your family’s livelihood. That level of cover is regularly reviewed by an independent organisation to ensure it is appropriate.
The fact that the aviation and ATM industries have a very solid safety system based on trust and on the concept of ‘just culture’, where incidents and even mistakes can be freely reported without fear of punishment or reprimand, could make one think that additional legal cover is an unnecessary expense. Unfortunately, reality is never as straightforward as that. We have witnessed in recent past the decision of Swiss prosecutors to prosecute an air traffic controller who reported a safety incident, even though the incident resulted in no fatalities and no damage to aircraft nor infrastructure. While it is difficult to imagine that happening in the UK, it was probably just as difficult to imagine by Swiss aviation and ATM professionals. However, today it is all too easy for any incident or accident to attract litigation which could significantly affect individuals and their families.
GATCO believes that its legal cover provides the additional required protection and peace of mind to our members, so they can continue to contribute to and benefit from an open and honest accident and incident reporting system.
A High Profile Case For GATCO – Ben Macdui
In 2001, two F-15 aircraft from the USAF crashed near the summit of Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms, during a low flying training exercise over the Scottish Highlands in low visibility and during a heavy snowstorm. Unfortunately, both USAF pilots died in the accident. The RAF air traffic controller involved was charged with causing the death of the two pilots along with professional negligence.
The RAF controller was subjected to a court martial, with GATCO supporting the controller throughout the process and partly funding his case. After the 22-day court martial (the longest in RAF history at the time), the controller was acquitted of all charges.
“I strongly urge any controller out there who has not joined GATCO to do so immediately – this professional organisation is a staunch ally in times of need.” – UK controller involved in an incident who received GATCO assistance.
GATCO published the following press release in response to the court martial verdict:
“The Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers is pleased to have supported the controller throughout his ordeal and delighted that his Court Martial has now ended with him being acquitted of all charges.
He leaves this court with his professionalism, conduct and character unblemished.
This brings to a close an unnecessary period of stress and trauma for himself, his family and the relatives of the pilots who lost their lives.
The evidence presented during the last four weeks has highlighted a need to revisit the Royal Air Force / United States Air Force arrangements to ensure that adequate safeguards and common procedures are in place for the conduct of low flying training and airspace management in United Kingdom airspace.
The Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers will continue to work with all air traffic service providers, civil and military, to achieve the highest levels of safety.”