Pilots raise flight time safety concerns with Oireachtas Transport Committee

UK transport committee critical of new European flight rules, highlighting safety concerns

IALPA, the pilots’ branch of IMPACT trade union, will meet the Oireachtas transport committee today to brief the committee on IALPA’s concerns about proposed new flight time rules drafted by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

IALPA members have been meeting with Irish MEPs since the new rules were published in January in order to outline their concerns.

Captain Paul Cullen, IALPA’s director of safety and technical, said “The new rules, if implemented, will standardise practice acrossEurope. This means they will replace all existing national schemes and affect all European pilots and cabin crew. Our primary concern is safety. All of the existing scientific research and data has highlighted the dangers associated with pilot fatigue. We are concerned that, in formulating guidelines which focus more on productivity gains, EASA has dismissed or ignored some of the key available research data.”

Last week, an influential Commons committee in theUKbacked pilot concerns about the new European flying hour limits. The Transport Select committee said that the proposals could jeopardise safety and that the transport minister needs to intervene in order to secure improvements to the regulations which could possibly see pilots landing aircraft after being awake for 22 hours.

The new rules are a modification of proposals published in December 2010. IALPA said that while these latter proposals are an improvement on the earlier rules drafted by EASA, pilots throughoutEuropehave continued to voice their concern that not all of the outstanding safety issues have been addressed.

Captain Cullen added that EASA had made ‘significant’ claims about safety and crew fatigue, “Our concern is that EASA has continued to disregard the scientific and medical evidence necessary to achieve best practice. We have a final opportunity to raise our concerns with those who will vote these proposals into law in the EU, which has led in turn to our invitation to speak to the Oireachtas committee today. We obviously welcome the opportunity to inform the committee about what has been proposed. It is vital that these proposals are understood outside of the aviation industries.”

IALPA’s delegation will include Dr. Robert Hunter, former head of the Aviation Health Unit with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, and now head of safety and security with the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) and Philip von Schoppenthau, secretary general of the European Cockpit Association.

The Oireachtas committee meeting is scheduled to commence at 14.15