Pilots prepare for protest action over flight time rules

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Pilot organisations are preparing for a day of protests tomorrow at 23 airports throughout the European Union in its "walkout for safety" campaign, co-ordinated by the European Cockpit Association.

The protests centre on planned European Union regulations on flight time limitations (FTL) which the pilots say can lead to dangerous levels of flight crew fatigue.

The ECA says it will also be handing over to the European Commission in Brussels a petition containing more than 100,000 signatures demanding amendment to the draft legislation before it becomes enacted.

"The rules drafted by the European Aviation Safety Agency are a blow in the face of Europe's air crews and passengers," says Nico Voorbach, ECA president.

"The new rules will allow airlines to carry out dangerous flight schedules. Air crews can be on duty for 20-22h. And they will be asked to fly over 12h throughout the night, whilst scientists warn that safety risks increase significantly after 10h at night," Voorbach says.

"This 'walkout' is a signal that air crews are ready to say 'no' when safety is compromised. We can no longer stay quiet and hope that disaster won't strike home. Policy-makers need to take political responsibility and set rules to effectively prevent fatigue-related accidents," he says.

However, the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) disagrees with the union's stance. It says: "European airline associations have joined forces once again to emphasise that harmonised FTL rules ensure utmost safety in the air.

"The final proposed FTL rules are not a relaxation of today's rules as the unions suggest. On the contrary, they harmonise the different FTL requirements that exist across Europe and even include some new and more restrictive requirements and limitations."

The ECA says it accepts most of the changes are safe, but argues that at the extremes the new rules become more dangerous than those they replace.