Safety, N° 1 Priority!

This was the slogan declaimed by some 100 pilots from all over Europe, to wake up the EU Transport Ministers as they were entering the LuxExpo building where they were meeting for the EU Transport Council on 16 June in Luxemburg. The demonstration, organised by ECA, was aimed at raising awareness about the threat pilot fatigue poses to the safety of passengers, with 15-20% of fatal air accidents having fatigue as a contributing factor. ECA calls the EU institutions to revise their proposal for future rules on pilot fatigue in line with available scientific evidence.

Already in October 2009, ECA and its 38,650 members had raised their concerns during an EU-wide action day, after which a process was launched at EU level to draft new rules on pilot fatigue. More than two years and a half have passed and ECA regrets to see that the airlines’ strong stance against safe and science-based pilot fatigue rules has been successful. Indeed, the current proposal (developed by the European Aviation Safety Agency – EASA) is immature, sets safety standards well below global best practices and disregards decades of scientific evidence.

In front of the Ministers and the media, European pilots expressed their common concerns, requesting the EU Transport Ministers ensure the current proposal is changed in line with science and that the safety of European air passengers is safeguarded. Information leaflets were distributed to the public and a Press Conference was held, where Nico Voorbach, ECA President, stated that “Europe has a unique opportunity to come up with FTL safety standards at the highest level, based on scientific and medical knowledge. The bad news, however, is that the EU is going in the opposite direction.”

ECA has always supported EASA in its difficult task of harmonising civil aviation legislation at EU level. But its proposal as it stands will lower safety standards in many EU countries. We therefore hope that this first “wake-up call” will generate the necessary political will for a revision of the proposal in line with scientific evidence.

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