The European Parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of new regulations to reduce the consecutive number of hours flown by pilots, a move that a British pilots' union has argued will actually reduce safety.
Last week the parliament's transport committee voted to reject the new regulations on flight hours for cockpit crews. The rule changes allow pilots to work a maximum of 110 hours in a two week period, which is greater than the current 95-hour limit under British aviation regulations.
However, the new regulations can now be implemented after the parliament voted in favor of them Wednesday, unless the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers decides to discuss and vote on them, according to the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) a trade union opposed to the new rules.
The following flight hours regulations would become law under the new legislation:
-The maximum number of flying hours in 12 consecutive months is reduced from 1,300 to 1,000
-Maximum duty time during airport standby is reduced to 16, from the 26 or 28 hours currently allowed by some EU member states
-Weekly rest periods are increased to a minimum of two full days, up from 36 hours
-Night time flying is reduced to 11 hours instead of 11 hours and 45 minutes under current regulations
BALPA recently released a poll showing 56 percent of its member pilots admitted to having fallen asleep in the cockpit, and more than 80 percent indicating that their ability to fly was "compromised" by fatigue in the last six months. The trade union says the new rules will give EASA the power to change flight duty time limitations in the future without regard to "scrutiny from national governments," and believes the new rules were implemented because of "intensive lobbying from the airline industry," the group said in a statement.
"Pilots are calling on the Government and CAA to carry out and publish an immediate scientific review of the impact of the botched new EU rules and demand that they are discussed and voted on by UK Ministers in the EU Council. These rules will see already tired British pilots flying double the number of 5am starts, longer at night and landing a plane having been awake for 22 hours," said Jim McAuslan, general secretary of BALPA.
However, the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has expressed support of the new regulations, because it gives the agency more "enhanced monitoring of pilot fatigue," as it believes the industry currently relies too heavily on pilot reports of fatigue with not enough regulation.
"Pilots are calling on the Government and CAA to carry out and publish an immediate scientific review of the impact of the botched new EU rules and demand that they are discussed and voted on by UK Ministers in the EU Council. These rules will see already tired British pilots flying double the number of 5am starts, longer at night and landing a plane having been awake for 22 hours," said Andrew Haines, chief executive of CAA.
The agency said it plans to launch a research project in the near future to further understand the causes of pilot fatigue.
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