EASA's final Opinion

On 1 Oct. 2012, EASA published its final “Opinion”, i.e. a comprehensive set of new FTL rules to be applicable to all EU Member States, covering both the areas currently subject to EU-OPS Subpart Q and those currently subject to national rules (so-called “black holes”).

Despite a number of improvements compared to today’s Subpart Q, the EASA Opinion continues to disregard available scientific evidence, including the three reports it commissioned in 2011. If not changed, the new FTL rules will allow pilots to be scheduled for excessively long duties without providing sufficient amount of rest. They will make it legal for pilots to operate an aircraft and land after having been awake for more than 22 hours. It also allows e.g.:

  • Extremely long hours awake at the moment of landing, after long standby and subsequent flight duties, or after successively ‘delayed reporting’, or when combining long-term ‘reserve’ stanby with other forms of standby, followed by a full flight duty;
  • Night flights of up to 12:30 hrs, whilst scientists set the limit at max. 10 hrs;        
  • Evading stringent rules on flight schedules that disrupt sleep patterns, such as very early starts, by allowing Member States to simply opt out of these rules;
  • Putting crews on open-ended standby for many consecutive days without an ability to plan their rest or sleep, and without any of this time counting as duty.

Crucially, the new rules will replace existing national FTL standards which – in several EU countries – are well above the level set by EASA. The new EU-wide rules will therefore result in a lowering of safety standards in countries such as the UK, Spain, Scandinavian countries and others. This is not only contrary to what Europe’s travelling public expects from a Safety Agency, but it is also contrary to the ‘non-regression’ principle that underpins today’s EU-OPS Subpart Q. According to this principle, the introduction of new EU legislation should not lead to a regression in safety levels.

ECA has therefore called upon the EU Institutions to reject the Opinion in its current form and to amend it into a safe package, based on science, the precautionary principle and best operational practice.

Next steps (until adoption by end 2013/ Jan 2014): see legislative timeline