An international air accident investigator has criticised Hong Kong's probe into a fatal China Airlines crash at Chek Lap Kok as being 'Third World'. Experienced crash investigator Captain Paul McCarthy, who is visiting Hong Kong for an air safety conference which ended yesterday, was commenting on the Civil Aviation Department probe. The department defended its investigation into the 1999 crash, saying international standards had been met. Although the report has not been released, it is understood to conclude that pilot error is to blame. But Mr McCarthy said the department's failure to issue a public report more than three years after the accident could unecessarily delay the implementation of any recommended safety improvements. 'The report should be out and widely disseminated . . . What that [delay] does is say, 'I'm Third World',' he said. Withholding an accident investigation report was a terrible safety breach because it could hinder efforts to prevent further crashes. 'There's the First-World approach and everyone else. You [Hong Kong] are everyone else . . . The accident investigation effort wasn't very bloody impressive,' he said. Mr McCarthy is the principal vice-president, technical standards, of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations and has investigated crashes around the world over more than a decade. He was critical of the department's decision not to accept groups representing airline pilots as a party to the review, a step which he said was routine in investigations in the US. 'If pilots are not there, we find the consequence is everybody else says the pilot did it. We have to have line pilots at the table,' he said. Test pilot and airline pilots in management did not have the same perspective as rank-and-file pilots. But a department spokeswoman said some of the people on the investigation team were trained pilots with extensive experience in commercial airliners. Mr McCarthy also said it was not ideal that investigations of this type were carried out by the department because, as a regulator, it could effectively end up investigating its own actions. Two parties to the investigation have challenged the finding that pilot error was to blame, one of them China Airlines and the second undisclosed. A board of review into the findings is to be held early next year. The department spokeswoman said the investigation had met International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and procedures. The probe team included investigators from the department, the US National Transportation Safety Board, Boeing, the British Air Accident Investigation Branch and Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council. These parties were made aware of safety-related recommendations in June last year, when a draft report was completed, the spokeswoman said, rejecting Mr McCarthy's allegations that delays in releasing the report publicly could have safety ramifications. The final report, completed in April, would not be released publicly until after the board of review early next year, she said. The pilot-error finding contradicted earlier investigations by the US National Transportation Safety Board and Boeing, which found pilot error was not to blame. Insurers are suing Boeing, which owns the plane's maker, McDonnell Douglas, for US$80 million (HK$622.4 million), alleging a defect in the plane caused the accident.