EASA Rulemaking Process

It took the Agency until Sept. 2009 – i.e. 1 year after the Moebus Report was available – to convene a stakeholder meeting to hold “preliminary discussions”. At this meeting pilot and cabin crew representatives stressed the need for science-based FTL rules, whereas the airline representatives stated that they reject anything that would change today’s fatigue rules – except if it resulted in more flexibility.(see joint airlines’ position)

The airline’s opposition to science-based rule changes made work in EASA’s ‘OPS.055’ working group rather difficult (the group comprised 5 airline representatives, 5 air crew experts, 5 National Authority representatives, EASA staff, a Chairman, and one observer from the EU Commission). After one year of work, the participants found consensus on only very few issues.

As a result, the EASA’s 1st proposal for FTL rules – issued on 20 Dec. 2010 in the form of a ‘Notice of Proposed Amendment” (NPA) – turned out to be inadequate to manage fatigue and ensure safe flight operations. Based on a weak Regulatory Impact Assessment, it disregarded decades of scientific research (incl. the Moebus Report) and was largely tailored to the airline’s commercial needs. Also, it set a level well below the FTL safety standards currently applied in many EU countries such as the UK, Spain and others.

ECA therefore rejected the NPA and called on the EU Institutions to deliver safety-oriented and science-based FTL rules, free from social and commercial considerations. (see Press Release)

Almost 50.000 comments on the NPA were subsequently received from stakeholders – incl. many pilots – a record in the Agency’s rulemaking history  (see: "Flight Time Limitations: 3 Words – 50.000 Comments")

Between April and Nov. 2011, EASA assessed the stakeholder comments, discussed them with the OPS.055 group and prepared a revised proposal. EASA also invited the 3 scientists who had been asked to assess the NPA (see chapter ‘3 new scientific studies’) to the OPS.055 group to present their preliminary findings.

In Jan. 2012, EASA published its revised proposal, the "Comment Response Document" (CRD), which included a number of improvements, compared to the NPA (e.g. rest facility definitions on board, disruptive schedules, etc.). However, most key provisions did not reflect the recommendations from the 3 scientific reports commissioned by the Agency, nor did EASA make use of the precautionary principle. Several CRD provisions, e.g. on airport standby or ‘short-call’ standby, allowed pilots to land a plane after dangerously long times awake (up to 18-21 hrs). 

As for the NPA, ECA criticised the lack of scientific basis and the fact that EASA gave again priority to the airlines’ commercial interests rather than to passenger safety. Again, ECA called upon EASA to revise its proposal in line with scientific and medical evidence.

And again, these calls were ignored in the subsequent process, where EASA held 2 further meetings of the OPS.055 group meetings. The draft final proposal, presented to the group members, in Sept. 2012, showed the same deficiencies as the CRD. But in addition, several CRD provisions had been watered down significantly – after the airlines had voiced strong criticism on these points (short-call standby, reserve standby, disruptive schedules, etc.). Some of those changes were introduced in the last minute without consultation of the group and without proper safety justification.

In reaction, ECA issued a strong statement criticising the rule-making process and its outcome.