Safety risks caused by pilot fatigue are not addressed sufficiently in the proposed new "EU-OPS" Regulation, which seeks to harmonise minimum Flight Time Limitations (FTL) for flight crews across the EU.
On 1st June, the European Parliament Transport Committee voted that the scientific / medical evaluation of those FTL will be carried out within 2 years after the Regulation's entry into force. Crucially, it also voted for a new "Non-regression clause". This is to ensure Member States do not use the new Regulation as a pretext for lowering existing higher safety standards. This is a clear rejection of downward harmonisation.
The European Cockpit Association (ECA), representing over 34,700 pilots from across Europe, congratulates the Transport Committee for having insisted on:
- 2-year deadline for a scientific evaluation of FTL. The Council's 3 year deadline would further delay having scientific evidence guiding Europe's FTL. The Regulation was never subject to a safety assessment. It cannot afford to wait for yet another year.
- 6-months deadline for EASA to make proposals for changing the FTL rules, in line with the scientific evaluation's results. This is expected to significantly improve the FTL rules from a safety point of view.
- Non-regression clause to prevent a race to the lowest legally possible bottom. Stiff competitive pressure in air transport encourages companies already today to look for savings, including on FTL. This clause will help to ensure safety is not compromised.
ECA strongly encourages the Parliament to:
- confirm these amendments in the July Plenary,
- ensure these amendments remain in the legally binding part of the text (rather than being moved into the legally non-binding preamble),
- reject an amendment allowing potentially unsafe cargo night-flights.
EASA should also be mandated to evaluate the need for and the safety benefits of a future cabin crew licence. Pilots and cabin crew together are often the last line of safety defence when it comes to preventing accidents and incidents.
See Press Release (PDF)