European Pilots Group Airs Concerns Over Flight-time Rules

 - February 20, 2017, 11:51 AM

European flight-time rules that became effective one year ago are being “widely misinterpreted and incorrectly implemented,” by airlines, the president of the European Cockpit Association (ECA) charged in a new column. The pilots’ association calls on the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to more actively provide guidance to national authorities, airlines and aircrew.

Many airlines and national aviation authorities are challenged to interpret and apply the year-old European Union Flight Time Limitations (FTL) regulations, ECA president Dirk Polloczek wrote in a column posted to the association’s website on February 20. The EU implemented the amended regulation on Feb. 18, 2016, following a two-year transition period; it applies to commercial air transport scheduled and charter operations.

Due to the complexity of the rules, airlines and national aviation authorities are struggling with translating them into flight operations and some “are opting for interpretations that simply fit their operations, schedule and productivity targets” without regard to the fatigue impact on aircrews, Polloczek said.

“Particularly at risk are night flight duties of 10 hours or more, extended flights of 14 hours, and standby-flight combinations with pilots being awake for more than 18 hours—but being expected to land their aircraft and passengers safely after such duties,” he said. “Although we have new rules, the old problem persists: many fatigued pilots in Europe’s cockpits.”

The ECA is an umbrella group that represents some 38,000 pilot members of national pilot associations in 37 EU states. It called upon EASA to provide clear guidelines to aviation authorities and carriers to implement the FTL rules and also for airlines to adopt complementary fatigue risk management systems.

As of the first anniversary of the FTL regulation, a consortium of research institutes will begin a scientific review of the rules leading to a planned final report in February 2019.