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Summer schedules pushing pilots to the limits

Pilots are proud to be getting a record number of customers off on their holidays this summer but are warning that demanding schedules, lax controls of pilots’ hours of duty and a failure to recruit adequate numbers of pilots, are pushing the system to the limits.

Only last month British pilots helped make 21st of July a record breaking day as more than 8,800 flights left or entered UK airspace. The day after the schools break up for summer is annually the busiest day for air traffic, but the peak period stretches across July and August.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association says its members have highlighted some particularly demanding routes that they have to fly. The association is analysing the routes to identify those which could cause serious fatigue and is working with airlines and regulators to challenge these duties and adjust them to prevent already tired pilots becoming dangerously fatigued.

Pilots have told BALPA that an insufficient number of pilots is adding to the problem, with many airlines having difficulty staffing their flights. This leaves very little flexibility in the system and despite pilots flying to the limits and beyond to keep up with the summer demand; they are concerned that there could be disruption to summer flights.

BALPA says it is seeing increasing numbers of pilots who are looking to go part time or have become long term sick as a result of fatigue and “burnout” caused by inadequate rest and unworkable patterns of duty.

BALPA says its vital commercial pressure does not have a detrimental effect on flight safety. It is challenging regulators and airlines to tackle the problem and look at the serious issue of under reporting of fatigue.

It’s also calling on airlines to look at their recruitment and ensure they have the right number of pilots available.
BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said:

“Summer holidays are understandably a very busy time in aviation and pilots are working incredibly hard to ensure passengers get to their destinations without delays or cancellations.

“Pilots want their companies to be successful and profitable and are putting in the hard work to keep up with summer demand. But no one wants pilots at the controls when they are tired. That’s why we are campaigning across the aviation industry to make sure the pilot duty time rules are properly adhered to so that pilots get the rest they need.

“We are working with airlines and the CAA to identify and challenge patterns of duties that pose a threat to safety.

“Together we aim to create an industry wide culture that makes the understanding, reporting and mitigation of fatigue a priority.”