Yesterday, I met members of BALPA, the Pilots Union. They are concerned about European plans to increase the length of time which pilots are allowed to fly. I am supporting their case.
This year, half of all Britons will fly on a plane making air safety paramount yet potential dangers lie ahead. New guidelines planned by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) would increase the Flight Time Limitations which determine the time pilots are allowed to fly.
Flight Time Limitations, under current UK legislation, are already pushing pilots to their physical limits with 20% of pilots admitting that they feel like falling asleep on duty at least once a week with the same amount of pilots stating that they felt their ability to fly an aircraft was “compromised” more than once a week. Almost half of pilots in a recent survey reported that they have fallen asleep at the controls and 31% have admitted to falling asleep only to wake up and find their co-pilot asleep!
These statistics paint a damning picture of the current regulations and it is absurd to think that we are considering adopting the EU proposals. The extension of the time that a pilot can be awake for while flying a plane will only bring more fatigue onto the pilots which in turn will massively increase the risk of accidents occurring. Studies have showed between 15 to 20 per cent of fatal air accidents are down to pilot tiredness, and the risks increase three-fold when a pilot has been on duty for more than 12 hours or more.
In the USA it took the deaths of 50 people caused partly by pilot fatigue in 2009 to bring about changes. We should not wait for a similar tragedy to happen in Europe before we act.
In Parliament, I took part in the Transport Select Committees inquiry into increased Flight Time Limitations which called on the EASA to improve its proposals. I also signed Early Day Motion 1421 which opposed ‘any change within the draft EU legislation being put forward which will result in pilots facing up to a 40 per cent. increase in duty on one day.’
I have been in contact with several pilots who live in the constituency who all feel the proposals would jeopardise air safety.
The full findings of the report can be found here: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/TSO-PDF/committee-reports/164.pdf