EU fatigue rules would endanger public: BALPA

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Pilots flying to the limits of the proposed new European Aviation Safety Agency flight time rules will degrade their physical and mental performance as much as having drunk five cans of beer, UK MPs have been told.

British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) briefed MPs and Peers at Parliament today (19 October) that the effect of proposed European rules would see pilots flying with levels of fatigue equivalent to putting them four times over the legal alcohol limit for pilots. The evidence BALPA has presented is based on a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) programme called SAFE, which uses data derived from trials carried out in association with UK-based Qinetiq.

Dr Rob Hunter, BALPA's head of flight safety and security said: "Alcohol and lack of sleep affect our abilities in similar ways. Using the CAA's own scientific model for calculating fatigue the proposed EU regulations would see pilots landing their aircraft with the equivalent performance detriment of being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying.

"The Government cannot say on the one hand that flying while over the alcohol limit is unsafe, and at the same time do nothing to oppose regulations which would allow pilots to be flying equivalent to four times that same limit."

BALPA chairman, Captain Mark Searle, said: "This adds to the growing mountain of scientific evidence that says the EU proposals are unsafe and will put passengers' lives at risk. It is interesting to note that EASA, which is responsible for drafting these rules, asked three eminent scientists to independently scrutinise the proposals but, nearly four months after they reported, EASA has refused to release the findings to public scrutiny."

EASA said the consultation process is ongoing, and the pilot community's comments are being taken into account. It added that the scientific report is one of the factors which is being used to forumulate the draft response, which will be published in December, after which stakeholders will have two months in which to comment.

BALPA wants the UK to stick with existing UK regulations, known as CAP371, which are used as a base for aviation flight time limitation practice in many countries worldwide. BALPA said: "The current UK rules are far from perfect, but they are an awful lot better than the EU's plans. One of [new Transport Secretary] Justine Greening's first acts should be to use the opportunity of a high level gathering of Member States on 26 October to call a halt to this until all the science is available and properly scrutinised."