European pilots protest EASA flight time rules

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European pilots are demonstrating at today's EU Transport Council meeting in Luxembourg against the proposed new flight time regulations of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Pilots believe the new rules disregard scientific evidence about pilot fatigue and will reduce current safety standards which are in place across several EU member states.

"EASA's proposed rules are designed more to avoid costs to the airlines than to protect the travelling public," said Philip von Schöppenthau, secretary general of the European Cockpit Association.

The pilots are calling on EU transport ministers not to agree to the proposals and to change the rules according to scientific evidence.

Germany's Vereinigung Cockpit said that, "thanks to resistance from the industry", EASA ignored its own study of flight time limitations, which was conducted by Zurich-based Moebus Aviation.

The union added that while scientists from different institutions, which contributed to the report, recommended reducing duty hours, EASA has proposed to expand them in certain circumstances.

EASA has made many adjustments in its new rules, but most of these changes went "in the wrong direction", said VC.

ECA president Nico Voorbach has called on EU transport ministers to follow the "swift and decisive" reaction by the US FAA after the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo in February 2009, which was partly caused by pilot fatigue. The FAA has developed new science-based rules which will be introduced in August.

The Association of European Airlines has called the pilot demonstration "a misguided attempt to influence safety rulemaking by manipulating passenger anxieties".

AEA secretary general Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus said EASA's rules do not undermine safety, and "utmost care has been paid by airlines to maintain a healthy relationship with their pilots".