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EASA publishes Opinion on EU pilot flight duty limitations

EASA has published its proposal to amend the current EU rules on flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements (FTL) for commercial air transport. EASA says that the final proposal, known as an Opinion, contains more than 30 safety improvements compared to current requirements and introduce new limitations to the way crews can be scheduled.

According to EASA, the Opinion takes full account of the fact that fatigue is one of the main factors affecting human performance and makes no provision for increased pilot flight hours. Other concerns which are addressed include pilots’ split duty, rest compensating time zone differences, reduced rest arrangements and extension of flight duty period due to in-flight rest.

EASA’s Executive Director, Patrick Goudou, said, “These harmonised flight crew duty time rules are based on scientific evidence, risk assessment and best practice.”

Throughout the process, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has led a prominent campaign against EASA’s original proposed increase in Flight Time limitations.

Commenting on EASA’s final ‘Opinion’, Jim McAuslan, BALPA General Secretary, said, “There are one or two improvements in this iteration of the rules but, by and large, these proposals are even worse than the previous draft.”

Mr McAuslan explained that the proposals could see pilots working double the number of early starts in a row compared to the current UK standards, being on duty 15% more over two weeks and flying longer at night than the scientists say is safe.

He added, “Let me be clear. This is not about pilots wanting to work less. The overall number of hours pilots will fly in a year will remain the same, but the distribution of those hours can be done in a safe or unsafe way. The UK currently has the safest skies in Europe, but the Government seems ready to ditch all that in favour of harmonisation. Neither pilots nor the travelling public will understand the sense in that.

“We will be meeting the Transport Minister, Simon Burns, later this month. If he insists that the Government has to adopt these new rules, he must commit to ‘safety enhancements’ to cover black holes which would otherwise be a safety reduction for the UK.” www.balpa.org

The Opinion will now enter the legislative process. It will be finalised by the European Commission and must be approved by Member States, with Parliamentary scrutiny. The new rules are expected to be adopted into EU law after mid-2013 and fully implemented by the end of 2015. www.easa.europa.eu