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Thu, Oct 10, 2013

European Parliament Bucks Transportation Committee On Flight Time Rules

Members Vote Down Committee Recommendation To Dismiss New Rules

The European Parliament has rejected a recommendation by its transportation committee to throw out proposed flight time regulations, meaning the new rules can go into effect.

According to a European Parliament news release, the European Commission's draft measure aims to improve existing flight time limitation rules by limiting night time flights to 11 hours, adding limits for flight time in 12 consecutive months and adding rest periods to counter cumulative fatigue after extended flights and in the event of disruptive schedules.

Total time should not exceed 16 hours for combined airport standby and following flight duty.

The rules were backed by EASA as well as the civil aviation authorities of many of the EU's member states. EASA said in a statement that "This European Commission proposal is based on an EASA Opinion and will bring a series of clear safety improvements in crew protection against fatigue. In particular, night flight duty will be reduced to 11 hours in the new regulation, instead of 11 hours and 45 minutes today, more flights will be considered night flights and subject to shorter duty periods. Total flight time in 12 consecutive months will be limited to 1,000 hours instead of 1,300  hours. The weekly rest will be increased by 12 hours twice a month. The combination of standby at the airport with flight duty will be capped at 16 hours. It is currently 20 hours or 26 hours, or even without limit at all in some Member States."

“We can all be proud of this achievement," said Patrick Ky (pictured), EASA Executive Director. "Europe now has one of the strictest FTL rules in the world. EASA will continue to pursue its objective to promote the highest safety standards in civil aviation”.

The adoption by the European Parliament concludes more than 5 years of work of safety experts representing pilots, cabin crew, airlines, national aviation authorities and the European Commission under the leadership of the Agency. EASA says it will now work with representatives of cabin crews, pilots, airlines and National Aviation Authorities on the implementation of this new regulation.

But the European Cockpit Association, the representative body of European pilot associations, representing over 38,000 pilots from across Europe, says the regulations will have the opposite effect on pilot fatigue.

“Today the European Parliament (EP) voted for a Regulation that is not to the benefit of the flying public in Europe,” says Nico Voorbach, ECA President, after the adoption of the new EU Flight Time rules by the EU Parliament. “With this approval the EP took a step away from a ‘precautionary’ approach, ignored scientific expert advice and put passenger safety at risk.”

ECA says pilots and cabin crew from across Europe have repeatedly highlighted the safety loopholes of the regulation proposed by the EU Commission: excessively long night flights of up to 12 hours and 30 minutes – while scientists have set the safe limit at 10 hours – and a combination of standby and flight duty, which could lead to pilots landing aircraft after having been awake for more than 22 hours. “These safety concerns remain as valid after the Parliament’s vote as before,” says Philip von Schöppenthau, Secretary General of ECA. “The ‘clarifications’ from Commissioner Kallas yesterday did not offer any genuine solutions, came in the last minute and, again, did not take account of what numerous scientific reports recommend as safe practices.

“By adopting these rules, the Parliament endorsed the Commission’s approach of taking risks – avoidable risks,” stresses Voorbach. “Now that these rules are adopted, in case of an accident related to aircrew fatigue, Europe’s citizens will have to hold accountable those who promoted this flawed proposal.”

Pilots have in the past few months intensively sought changes of the rules through the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Commission they said would improve the measure. "Regretfully, the Commission has not amended its flawed proposal despite some verbal ‘clarifications’, which do not constitute any improvement to the rules.

“The rules have been rushed through the EU Parliament after the EP Transport Committee firmly rejected them, only last week. And this vote today is not a ‘victory for common sense’, as Mr Kallas claims. It is victory for intransparency, commercial interests and short-sightedness”, says von Schöppenthau. “Europe has lost a unique opportunity to be a forerunner on flight safety, to have safe, science-based rules, based on best practices.”

FMI: www.europarl.europa.eu/portal/en, www.easa.eu.int, www.dead-tired.eu

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