David Learmount/LONDON

EUROPEAN JOINT Aviation Authority (JAA) proposals for airline-pilot working hours exceed safe limits, with excessive duty time and inadequate rest periods, according to a study from NASA. The JAA has declined to comment.

The study was led by, Mark Rosekind of NASA's Ames Research Center and Hans Wegmann, of the German Aerospace Research Establishment's, Institute of Aerospace Medicine. It does not single out regulations, but provides a scientific base on which to calculate safe duty times.

According to the proposed European Joint Aviation Regulation (JAR Ops 1 section Q) on Flight Time Limits (FTL), the maximum allowable extended crew-duty day for a three-sector route could run to 14h 30min.

The NASA report recommends that, "...for standard operations, the cumulative flight-duty period [should] not exceed 10h within a 24h period. An extended cumulative flight-duty period would be limited to 12h. This limit is based upon scientific findings from a variety of sources, including data from aviation that demonstrate a significantly increased vulnerability to performance-impairing fatigue after 12h."

The report adds: "It is readily acknowledged that in current practice, flight-duty periods extend to 14h in regular operations. However, the available scientific data supports a guideline different from current operational practice."

The proposed JAR FTL will allow an augmented crew to fly for more than 16h with up to three landings, provided that defined crew-rest facilities are on the aircraft. NASA's recommendations would reduce this 16h duty-time trigger by 2h and allow for only one landing instead of three.

The new regulations, which are opposed by European pilots' unions, are to become law in 1997.

NASA's recommendations for minimum "recovery" periods are also more stringent than the JAA proposals, with a more direct relationship between the time worked and the recovery time required.

NASA says that, for rule making, time-periods to which duty maxima apply should be "more frequent". For example, in addition to daily, weekly and monthly maxima, it says that there should also be fortnightly maxima to protect against the employer who might try to cram a month's duty time into two or three weeks.

The US Airline Pilots Association and the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) support the NASA recommendation.

Source: Flight International