New European pilot duty limits to undergo scientific tests within two years, says Parliament

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By David Learmount in London

A scientific review of the effect of the imminent European flight time limitations (FTL) legislation on pilot alertness will have to be completed within two years of implementation if the European Parliament’s transport committee recommendation is accepted in plenary session.

Commenting on the amendments, the European Cockpit Association (ECA) says it welcomes the reduction of the mandatory review completion period from three to two years.

The ECA’s Capt Mike Chalk says it is not the association’s purpose to try to forge a social ideal for pilots by reducing accepted maximum flight-duty periods, but to ensure – when the new FTL rule becomes a European Union Operations (EU Ops) regulation enforced by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) – that its effectiveness in real airline operations is medically and scientifically reviewed within the shortest time feasible. This task would be supervised by EASA.

The maximum flight-duty period in the draft legislation is 13h for a one- or two-sector day, with a potential extension of an hour that operators may use no more than twice a week. The maximum flying hours within any consecutive 28- day period will be 100, and 900h is the annual limit.

Another amendment passed in committee includes a “non-regression” clause that would require states that have an existing higher standard of FTL not to use new European legal minimum standards as an opportunity to “level downward”. Without this clause, says the ECA, there could be “a race for the lowest legally possible” FTL standards.

Parliament will vote on the amended EU Ops FTL rule in early July, and the ECA says it is confident, having observed voting patterns, that it will be passed as now drafted. After that the ruling will be passed to the Council of Ministers for final approval.The ECA has also urged that EASA should be mandated “to evaluate the need for and the safety benefits of a future cabin crew licence”.