Don’t be Afraid of the Spirits that You Summoned!

After a well-deserved summer break, EASA resumed its meetings of the ‘Comment Review Group’ which is to advise the Agency on how to deal with the almost 50.000 comments received from stakeholders on its proposed new pilot fatigue rules – the so-called “NPA-2010-14”. One of the big questions is whether the Agency will change course and eventually follow scientific evidence when publishing their revised proposal in December this year.

Having been drafted without any input from scientific and medical experts, the NPA had instead been tailored around the airlines’ commercial interests to avoid adding costs at a time of sluggish economic growth.

However, in view of the 50.000 stakeholder comments, EASA eventually agreed to have 3 independent scientists carry out 3 separate ex-post scientific evaluations of the NPA. From February to June 2011 they assessed whether key elements of the proposed rules are in line with the findings of decades of scientific research.

These 3 reports – each of them prepared independently from the others and using different methodologies – were finalised in June. The results – unsurprisingly – confirm previous research, including EASA’s own scientific study prepared in 2008. Showing a high degree of convergence, all 3 reports confirm that the NPA must be revised to bring it in line with “scientific principles and knowledge” as required by the new ICAO Annex 6.

Surprisingly however, EASA decided to keep these 3 reports behind locked doors until the end of the year – rather than making them publicly available to allow stakeholders to assess them and draw their conclusions in view of the upcoming revised EASA proposal. Instead of following the EU’s own transparency principles, the Agency rejected several requests to publish the reports, arguing that they are part of the NPA process and can therefore not be released.  

It is hence not surprising that people are starting to wonder about the Agency’s motives. After ignoring the results from its own scientific study when drafting the NPA, is EASA now keen to reduce the public pressure to actually take the 3 new reports into consideration? Because, once the reports are published together with EASA’s revised proposal, they will be ‘buried’ in a package of hundreds of pages. With only 2 months left to comment on this package few will have the time to read what the 3 scientists had to say and whether EASA followed their recommendation.

EASA has the opportunity to significantly improve its NPA proposal and the 3 scientists’ reports provide a useful basis for doing so. Hiding the reports raises questions and it sends the wrong signal. Be open, be transparent and focus on providing Europe’s passengers with safe flight rules!