Pilot Fatigue

 Background

Fatigue has for many years been a worrying issue for pilots and it continues to be a huge concern across the industry today. Pilots have told BALPA they believe fatigue is the biggest single threat to flight safety.
 
In February 2016 new controversial European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) flight time limitation laws came in to force.  Pilots feared these changes could mean pilots were made to work longer and harder leading to dangerous levels of fatigue, and this has now come to pass. 
 
BALPA is committed to monitoring the effect of these rules to ensure airlines do not see them as targets. Already we are hearing of rosters and schedules and working arrangements that are putting strain on flight crew.
 
BALPA is also hearing increasingly of cases of long-term sickness related to fatigue and ’burnout’ as well as an increased demand for part time work. These are indicators that current work levels cannot be sustained.

 Statistics

  • 84% of BALPA members say that it is very important for BALPA to focus on fatigue over the next 12 months
  • 55% think fatigue is the biggest threat to flight safety, higher than terrorism (15%)
  • 79% of our members trust BALPA to maintain aviation safety, more than the regulator (48%) and the Government (17%)
(Figures from the BALPA membership survey 2017)

 BALPA Position

No one wants tired pilots on the flight deck and BALPA is working with regulators and airlines to create an industry wide culture that understands and prioritises fatigue.
 
Pilots say it is essential for airlines to ensure the new EASA FTLs are not being used as targets to push pilots to work longer and harder. BALPA is monitoring the effect of the law change and challenging routes, rosters and schedules that are a threat to flight safety.
 
BALPA understand the vital importance of accurate data and fatigue monitoring. We continue to encourage members to report fatigue. We are also working with airlines and the CAA to remove any barriers to reporting and make sure the systems to do so are working.
 
We would also like to see an industry standard for what levels of fatigue are permittable. We support the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale as a way of measuring fatigue, which runs from 1 (extremely alert) to 9 (extremely sleepy, fighting sleep). We would like to see no pilot rostered to the point where they will reach Karolinska 8 (sleepy, some effort to keep awake) or 9 during a duty.
 
We are also looking at how modern technology can be harnessed to make reporting as simple as possible and enable accurate data to be collected.