Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries -
03 Jun 2012
Transport Committee warns EU flight time proposals may jeopardise safety
Proposed EU rules on the working hours and conditions for pilots and cabin crew must be improved or safety could be at risk, says the Transport Committee in a report examining draft proposals from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to change the rules that govern how many hours a pilot can fly.
Launching the report on Flight time limitations, Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the Transport Committee, says,
"Currently, the UK implements stricter flight time regulations than some other European countries, but under the new rules proposed by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the UK would not be able to have its own regime.
Our inquiry looked closely at EASA's proposals to harmonise the rules that govern how many hours a pilot can fly and we concluded that they must be improved.
43% of pilots have reported falling asleep involuntarily at some point whilst on duty under the UK’s current regulatory framework. This shows how fatigue is already an issue in aviation. Steps must be taken to address this.
Current EU proposals risk making the situation worse, by lowering the UK’s current standards. A lowest common denominator approach to safety will not benefit passengers, airlines or crew."
The Committee recognises that flight time limitations are complex regulations which form an overall package. However, MPs have highlighted several issues where there is clear scope for improvement or further work.
"The proposed 11 hour duty period at night for pilots flies in the face of scientific evidence. It should be reduced to a 10 hour maximum. We are also concerned at the possibility that a pilot could land a plane after 22 hours awake. The Civil Aviation Authority must do more to monitor pilot hours so that long duty periods are the exception not the rule’ “adds Louise Ellman, “and we are also concerned about a culture of under-reporting of pilot fatigue, which the CAA must tackle."
MPs accept that common European flight time limitations could improve aviation safety for UK passengers travelling on non-UK airlines. However, for these benefits to be realised the European standards must be uniformly high.
"EASA's current proposals should be revised before the Government makes any commitment to their adoption. It is important that the Government addresses our concerns as the legislative process continues in Europe," adds Louise Ellman.