Jørn Madsen

former director of the Danish Aircraft Accident Investigation Board

When the Department of Transportation hired Jørn Madsen as director of the Danish Aircraft Accident Investigation Board there were two very well defined tasks to be performed:
1. The work of the Investigation Board had to be professionalized and the standards in general had to be improved. This specifically included putting a stop to drinking during work hours.
2. All airlines and the Board had to comply with the requirements of the Danish Aviation Act:To report immediately accidents and serious incidents to the Investigation Board to initiate an independent investigation of these occurences.

Jørn Madsen completed the tasks, but this did not exactly earn him any friends within the airline industry. Scandinavian Airlines Systems (SAS) in particular had a serious problem with Jørn Madsen, because he wouldn’t allow SAS to take part in the socalled independent investigations af the airline’s accidents and serious incidents, as had previously been common practice. Madsen even had the nerve to demand that SAS comply with legislative requirements regarding immediate reporting to the Board. Several open confrontations  between Jørn Madsen and SAS occured. The tone of the correspondence between them was harsh, and when SAS wrote to Jørn Madsen, a copy of the letter, fax, or email was always sent to the Department of Transportation, which by the way was playing a troublesome double role in relation to the renowned Scandinavian airline. The Danish state is, like the Norwegian and the Swedish one, a shareholder in SAS. This means that the department has the role of both a major shareholder and of the highest authority with regards to SAS. As it turned out this would be fatal to Jørn Madsen.

After a short time as director Jørn Madsen was now faced with demands for better cooperation from both the airlines and his employer, the Department of Transportation. The demand came from the same department that had specifically hired Jørn Madsen to be independent in the Boards investigations. Also, the demands were made public in a series of articles in the national newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Here it appeared that the commmunications people at SAS had been granted a relatively free access to the paper’s columns. Criticism poured down on the director of the Board.

It was the explosion in this right side engine of this SAS aircraft, SE-DOM, which finally sparked the conflict between Jørn Madsen and SAS. The airline would not accept an independent investigation of the accident.

But Jørn Madsen would compromize neither his own principles, nor the tasks he had been hired to complete. That ended up costing him his job. The director worked for only two years, before he was fired.

After he was fired, Jørn Madsen chose to blow the whistle. In a series of articles in the national newspaper Information and in a one hour special on the nationally broadcast TV-documentatary The Report the former Board director came forward and talked about the internal cleaning up after his predecessor. He also talked about the pressure from SAS to be granted access to the investigations that were supposed to be independent, about SAS safety problems in general, and about the airline’s problems with meeting the requirements set in the Aviation Act.

By the time Jørn Madsen decided to go public with his experiences, the case had already had grave personal consequences for him. Despite this he still went through a long period of hard and thorough consideration, before choosing to come forward. We, who know Jørn Madsen, know that this is because besides being a very thorough and honest man, he is also extremly loyal. However his reason for blowing the whistle is the very definition of a true whistleblower: He simply felt that his discharge, and in particular the way it had been done, revealed serious breaches in democracy and in the attitudes towards the safety of the flying public.