Pilot organisation the European Cockpit Association (ECA) has criticised the European Aviation Safety Agency for its proposal to transcribe existing "hard rules" on flight time limitations (FTL) into "soft rules" giving airlines the option to devise "acceptable means of compliance" with the new regulation when it is implemented in April 2012.
The ECA also says it "notes with dismay the agency's refusal to base its proposal on the latest scientific evidence". It is referring to the fact that the European Commission required EASA to have the existing FTLs, known as EU Ops Subpart Q, reviewed by scientists for their effectiveness in containing pilot and cabin crew fatigue risk. The agency commissioned a scientific review which concluded that Subpart Q is unacceptably risky, but now the ECA says the agency is selectively ignoring the scientific advice in its proposed rules. The ECA argues that if EASA ignores the science it is breaking EU law.
The new notice of proposed amendment runs to 1,000 pages of complex regulation and guidance, and the pilots say that they are concerned at the fact that not only is EASA proposing to ignore scientific evidence, but that it is changing rulemaking procedure. ECA secretary general, Philip von Schöppenthau, says that the agency has chosen to "depart from the traditional structure of air operation regulations, like EU-OPS and JAR-OPS". The ECA says that "a separate rulemaking process will unnecessarily delay the prospect for a complete set of science-based FTL rules".
There is a four-month comment period for this proposed rule, but the ECA claims this will not be sufficiently long given the regulation's complexity and the proposal to change from hard to soft law.