EU carriers accuse pilots of scaremongering over duty rules

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Carrier representatives are accusing pilots' unions of scaremongering over new flight-time limitation proposals drawn up by the European Aviation Safety Agency, arguing that the proposal is "substantially balanced".

Association of European Airlines secretary general Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus accuses cockpit representatives of "abusing their role" by suggesting that elements which do not benefit union members are unsafe, rather than simply undesired.

"It is outrageous that passenger anxieties should be invoked by manipulating facts," he says, accusing pilots of "cherry-picking" from various flight-time limitation schemes.

"To put it bluntly, I sometimes have the impression that the main concern of the pilot union is getting more pilots to fly aircraft so that the unions have more members."

Schulte-Strathaus also points out that the actual working requirement for pilots - rather than the statutory limit - is subject to individual collective agreement negotiations.

"We commend [EASA] that it resisted the pressure from the union to become a surrogate negotiator for employment terms and conditions," he says, although he admits that "a number of unresolved issues" remain over the proposal from the airlines' side.

His views contrast with those of the European Cockpit Association, which says that EASA's proposals are "far from adequate to protect against the safety risks generated by air crew fatigue".

The association dismisses EASA's notice of proposed amendment to the rules as "immature" and "built on a very weak scientific foundation" and claims the regulation is "tilted towards the airlines' commercial interest".

It argues that the Federal Aviation Administration has a more rigorous standard and that the EASA equivalent sets a lower bar than that already applied in parts of Europe.

"If this proposal is not changed and put on a solid scientific basis, it will reduce aviation safety levels in Europe to the detriment of the travelling public," the association says.

Following stakeholder consultation, a final proposal could be issued by the end of 2011, for entry into force in 2012.