Pilot Fatigue – 2011, a Crucial Year for Flight Safety

With EASA expected to issue its proposal for Europe’s future Flight Time Limitations (FTL) regulations just before Christmas – pilot fatigue and its risks to flight safety will become the focus of 2011. This at least for Europe’s pilots who convened at ECA’s General Assembly to discuss FTL and the EU’s approach to aviation safety. Reconfirming their previous commitment to science-based, safety-oriented FTL rules at the highest level, the Assembly’s 70 participants unanimously adopted a Motion calling on the EU Institutions and Member States to focus on safety rather than listening to the airlines’ demands for commercially-driven EASA FTL rules.

The Motion, which commits ECA’s Member Associations from 38 European countries, representing over 38.600 pilots, demonstrates pilots’ concern for aviation safety in Europe. It calls on the European Commission, Parliament and EU Member States to

  • deliver highest, scientifically supported FTL safety standards in Europe, in line with ICAO requirements, and free from social and commercial considerations;
  • focus on safety, prevent safety-regression in national FTL rules, and to resist the airlines’ lobbying in favour of commercially-driven EASA FTL rules;
  • acknowledge that safety does not come for free, and that Europe’s passengers must not have to wait for a major accident before pilot fatigue is taken seriously.

The Motion also requests the European Commission to swiftly issue clear guidance on how to interpret and implement the EU’s current FTL Rules (‘Subpart Q’), and to prevent ongoing abuses. So far, ECA’s attempts to obtain such guidance and to trigger a thorough follow-up of current misinterpretations and abuses of Subpart Q have been without success. The Commission cannot afford to avoid dealing with the application of today’s rules until the new EASA FTL rules apply – which is still several years away.

The Assembly Delegates confirmed their full support for ECA’s quest for safe, science-based FTL rules, in line with ICAO requirements. Such rules are in the best interest of Europe’s travelling public – as opposed to rules designed to advance the airlines’ commercial interests.