UK Politicians Demand Tougher EASA Rules on Duty Limits

 - June 4, 2012, 12:52 PM
Pilot union BALPA has supported concerns over flight duty limitation proposals from the EASA now being voiced by the UK parliament’s transport committee. (Photo: British Airways)

British politicians have demanded that the UK government reject current proposals on revised flight duty and rest times from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). In a May 30 report, the House of Commons transport committee said that the EASA’s plans for Europe-wide standards would fall short of the safety limits now set by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Particular concerns highlighted by members of parliament include an alleged lack of clarity in the EASA proposals about an operator’s responsibilities for ensuring its pilots don’t exceed flight time limits. The committee also wants the UK government to demand a reduction in the frequency with which a pilot may exceed the maximum flight duty period during a scheduled seasonal period. It also demanded that the EASA change its proposal to permit an 11-hour flight duty period to reflect a reduction to 10 hours.

UK pilot union BALPA has claimed that EASA rules could require a pilot to land an aircraft 22 hours after he or she awakens, but the CAA insists that such a scenario would prove extremely rare in practice. The transport committee also urged the CAA to start recording in its annual report the number of safety incidents involving fatigue as a means to track trends. It also wants closer attention paid to the number of times an airline captain can extend duty periods and further research on the safety ramifications of schedules involving duty periods beginning early in the morning.

The members of parliament complained of insufficient “scientific advice” considered in the preparation of the EASA proposals, which are subject to consultation with the agency’s member states before being finalized. Transport committee chair Louise Ellman claimed that 43 percent of pilots have reported falling asleep involuntarily at some point while on duty under the UK’s current regulatory framework. “Current [EASA] proposal risk [is] making the situation worse by lowering the UK’s current standards,” she argued. “A lowest common denominator approach to safety will not benefit passengers, airlines or crew.”