BALPA calls for UK probe of Ryanair after series of mishandled airport approaches by its pilots in last two years

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The British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) has called for a "UK-led scientific study" to determine whether a series of mishandled airport approaches by Ryanair pilots during the last two years is related to stress caused by Ryanair's methods of managing its flightcrew, writes David Learmount.

BALPA's call follows the publication in UK newspaper The Times of an internal directive from Ryanair's board saying pilots would be demoted or dismissed if they failed to follow the carrier's procedures for approaches. BALPA chairman Capt Mervyn Granshaw says: "Threatening to sack a pilot helps no-one, least of all the cause of flight safety." Listing what the association considers to be pressures that could adversely affect the way pilots conduct flights, Granshaw includes:

  • computer-based work allocation systems that exploit every minute of a pilot's availability, beyond what was envisaged by regulatory limits
  • a highly incentivised pay system, under which a pilot needs to complete all of an exceptionally compressed and heavy repetitive schedule.

Granshaw said: "This is in danger of turning out to be a lethal cocktail." 

Ryanair says its memo to pilots, issued in September, “prioritises the safety first option, regardless of schedules, arrival times or turnaround times”.

It adds: “The memo also re-stated Ryanair’s ‘no blame’ policy for go-arounds.”

The airline also rejects BALPA’s claims that it uses “computerised work rotas”, and says its rotas are “designed manually” and have been verified as “exceeding best industry practice” by NASA safety experts and the former heads of safety of the UK and German civil aviation authorities.