The Prime Minister was amongst the decision makers who have received a final warning from Britain’s airline pilots that the European Union’s pilot fatigue plans are unsafe.
Pilots from the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) delivered a dossier containing scientific reports, correspondence and testimonials to Number 10, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who, amongst them, will decide whether to acquiesce to Europe’s lower safety limits, or to stand up for UK standards. BALPA has today also published a film showing pilots delivering that dossier in person, highlighting the fact that “Tired Pilots Risk Lives” and demonstrating what could happen if these rules are not significantly changed.
Jim McAuslan, BALPA’s General Secretary, said, ‘Our message to the decision makers is “You have been warned.”
‘We have done everything we can to warn Ministers, politicians, civil servants and EU bureaucrats about why these rules are unsafe and could endanger passengers. Now, frankly, it’s over to them.’
On behalf of UK cabin crew, Oliver Richardson from Unite the Union said, ‘EASA’s proposals are hugely worrying for cabin crew and we are working closely with our pilot colleagues to ensure decision makers are aware of our shared concerns. Alert and well-rested cabin crew are vital to ensuring the safety of passengers on board aircraft, and these proposals will simply make the situation much worse for both cabin and flight crew.’
This message comes on the day [Tuesday, 22 January] that pilots and cabin crew from across Europe are taking part in national coordinated activities and actions to highlight this risk to flight safety. The European Cockpit Association (ECA) representing pilots and the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) representing cabin crew are working together on actions including demonstrations in 15 EU member states and a 100,000 signature petition will be handed over in Brussels.
The proposals from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will replace the UK’s current domestic regulations. New standby provisions could see pilots landing after being awake for 22 hours or more, a reduction on the number of pilots required on very long-haul flights, the elimination of the restrictions on the number of early starts pilots can do, which are especially fatiguing, and would allow longer overnight duties than the scientists say is safe. These are just a few examples of how the proposals, far from protecting against pilot fatigue, will actually create it.
Henry Smith MP (Cons, Crawley), who represents Gatwick Airport in Parliament, said, ‘I’m proud of the confidence the world can have in British pilots because of their professionalism and current flight time regulations which mean they are well rested. I’m deeply concerned at EU plans to introduce laxer measures which mean pilots will have more hours in the air. As the MP for Gatwick Airport and a passenger myself, I fully support BALPA’s efforts.’
Jim McAuslan concluded, ‘Pilots and cabin crew are united on this. Fatigue regulations must be safe, they must be scientifically sound and they must recognise the danger that fatigue presents to the travelling public. The rules that the EU are imposing on the UK will make pilots fly more tired, more often and will certainly increase the chance of a fatigue-related accident in the UK. Decision makers can never claim they have not been warned.’
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