While praising the FAA’s establishment of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee in response to the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, the European Cockpit Association (ECA) blasted its own rulemaking authorities for “shying away” from acting on conclusions from a study that purportedly exposes current EU fatigue rules as insufficient. “Does Europe need a fatal accident too, before actions are taken over here?” asked ECA secretary-general Philip von Schöppenthau. “Here in the EU, pilot fatigue is the single biggest ‘hot potato’ safety issue where neither the European Commission nor the European Aviation Safety Agency has shown any leadership to move decisively toward science-based EU rules. The EASA had been required to undertake a scientific evaluation of EU pilot fatigue rules, and the report has been available since last autumn. But confronted with massive opposition from the airline industry, it seems the institutions don’t want to get their fingers burned.”
The study cited by the ECA, published late last September by a group of “renowned” scientists, concluded that the currently allowed maximum daily flight duty period of 13 to 14 hours “exceeds reasonable limits” and is “not in keeping with the body of scientific evidence.” The ECA also noted that the study showed that authorities should reduce the 11 hour 45 minute limit on night duty to 10 hours.
“The airlines claim that the scientific study’s recommendations would cost them money,” said ECA president Martin Chalk, “and it therefore comes as no surprise that they try to discredit the study as flawed science…But what is really worrying is that the EU legislature lets nine months pass without working on new rules. Do European passengers not merit the same protection as U.S. citizens? It is high time for Europe to start thinking safety instead of politics or economics.”