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Pilots in safety protest

DAVID LEARMOUNT / LONDON

Airline pilots, led by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), have planned an "action day" on 21 January for a public protest against the draft flight-time limitations (FTL) legislation being prepared for European Union transport ministers at a council meeting scheduled for late March.

Italian pilots, who fear local implementation of the proposals in advance of the council meeting, are set to strike for 4h, but in other countries' protests will take the form of a publicity campaign about the dangers of flightcrew fatigue, says the ECA.

The ECA's weapon for the argument about the alleged dangers of the draft legislation is research carried out by a pan-European group of scientists from universities and research organisations. Called the European Committee for Aircrew Scheduling and Safety (ECASS), the group feels some of the proposed duty periods are too long, but above all that there is inadequate "recovery time" between duty periods, particularly upon return to base following a trip schedule that has involved "multiple time-zone transitions".

ECASS says: "Our main concern with the current document is not just with the points we have mentioned; it is that when taken together and applied in an environment of increasing competition, individual airlines may be encouraged, or compelled by business considerations, to operate everywhere close to the defined limits.

"In this case we would certainly consider it likely that this would lead to a decline in the safety of airline operations. We would therefore recommend that this document is redrafted to reflect the scientific position more closely."

The ECA says it is hopeful that the legislation may be amended before EU Council approval.

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