A report from the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, published on 11 September, has expressed concern about the lack of evidence behind proposed new EU rules to change the flying hours of British pilots, which could see them landing planes while dangerously tired.
Transport Committee Chair Louise Ellman said, “Flight time limitations remain a serious concern with 43% of UK pilots reporting that they fall asleep involuntarily while on the flight deck. It is vital that high aviation safety standards are maintained. That is why the new flight time regulation must be closely scrutinised and the Committee’s concerns taken forward.
“Overall, the Commission’s draft regulation represents an improvement on the European Aviation Safety Agency proposal to increase the number of hours pilots can fly, which we criticised in our report a year ago, but we remain concerned about several areas.”
The report expresses concern about the overnight flying limit and also remain concerned about the increased periods of wakefulness which, under the new rules, could require a pilot to land a plane after being awake for up to 22 hours. The committee also reiterates that science should be at the heart of making rules in such a safety critical area. Ellman continued “We are particularly worried about the apparent reluctance of the Commission when developing these regulations to set a lower limit for the flight duty period at night in accordance with the scientific evidence on this matter. It is disappointing that the UK Government has not pressed for a lower limit.”
Jim McAuslan, pilots’ union BALPA’s General Secretary, said, “The Government needs to listen to the concerns of the Select Committee and of the dedicated pilots who keep Britain flying safely. I hope Bill Cash MP and his European Scrutiny Committee, who will now take over responsibility for scrutinising the EU’s plans, will heed the warning of his parliamentary colleagues and insist the Transport Minister stop, look and listen to protect UK flight safety standards.
“I will be taking this message, on behalf of BALPA members, to the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester later this month and asking ‘Why have Conservatives stopped listening?’”
On 30 September MEPs on the Transport Committee in the European Parliament will be voting on a motion, tabled by a number of MEPs, to reject the proposals and insist that the agency responsible for drafting the proposals, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), start again with science at the heart of the process. BALPA will be lobbying to support that motion in the interests of British flight safety.