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Pilot fatigue rules introduced a year ago by the European Union are being misinterpreted and wrongly applied, according to the European Cockpit Association. The result is pilots flying long duties – sometimes as much as 14 hours.

“Particularly at risk are night flight duties of 10 hrs or more, extended flights of 14 hours, and standby-flight combinations with pilots being awake for more than 18 hours – but being expected to land their aircraft and passengers safely after such duties,” said ECA President Capt Dirk Polloczek.

“Although we have new rules, the old problem persists: many fatigued pilots in Europe’s cockpits.”

Half of airline pilots report fatigue
Two months ago, a London School of Economics’ (LSE) report warned that half of airline pilots report fatigue which could jeopardise passenger safety. The report was a study into Safety Culture carried out jointly with Eurocontrol. It highlights that fatigue strikes 6 out of 10 European pilots – but that only 2 out of 10 pilots think that fatigue is taken seriously by their airline.

“These findings are serious enough to serve as a wake-up call for European and national aviation authorities,” continued Polloczek. “But the problem is that many national authorities have insufficient resources and knowhow to properly oversee the new rules and their correct application.

“This is why EASA – the European Aviation Safety Agency – has a central role to play: one of guiding the work on a harmonised interpretation and implementation. We therefore call upon EASA to be more active and to provide clear interpretation guidelines to authorities, airlines and aircrew alike.”

The ECA believes Fatigue Risk Management (FRM) systems need to play a more prominent role in airlines’ efforts to reduce crew fatigue.

A review of Europe’s FTL rules is due to start next month by a consortium of research institutes  who are expected to report in February 2019.

“This is review is crucial,” said von Schöppenthau.

European Cockpit Association