Science-based rules

Pilot fatigue is a threat to flight safety and the process of drafting new EU-wide fatigue rules provides a unique opportunity to tackle this threat before any fatal accidents. With the expected rapid growth of European aviation over the next decades, we need rules that ensure the safety of Europe’s travelling public now and in the future. What’s holding up the EU?

Fatigue and its impact on transport safety has been a subject to extensive scientific research. Scientists have long identified pilot fatigue as a risk factor in flight operations and have unanimously identified the maximum amount of time pilots can be scheduled to fly. Many countries in Europe – such as the United Kingdom, Spain and others – have based their national fatigue rules on scientific recommendations.

Contrary to commercial airline’s assertions, this has not become a competitive disadvantage to them. Quite the contrary: their airlines in those countries are among the most competitive in Europe. Most importantly, a SAFE operation is the precondition for being competitive. Three scientific assessments, commissioned by EASA in 2011, confirmed what the flight time limits should be and how long a human body needs to rest.

In some cases, this might increase costs for the airlines, but in most it won’t because many airlines apply company-specific arrangements which provide stricter rules than what EASA proposes today. The only solution to tackle the dangers of fatigue is to base the new FTL rules on scientific evidence, on a precautionary approach (‘if in doubt chose the safer option’), and on safety considerations only.

This is what Europe’s passengers deserve: legislation that protects THEM – rather than the airlines’ commercial interest. Now that EASA has issued its final ‘Opinion’ to the European Commission, the EU Institutions – and EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas – need to take leadership. They must make passenger safety their Number One Priority. Europe needs science-based rules now!

For this, the EU Institutions – and EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas – need to take leadership. They must make passenger safety their Number One Priority.