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EU proposal could put passengers in danger

February 27, 2012, 10:32 am

The European Union recently heard a proposal to change pilot fatigue regulations, prompting several officials to consider the alterations dangerous to the well-being of passengers. Under the proposed rule, pilots would legally be allowed to land the airplane 22 hours after they had woken up initially for the day.

Several aviation officials from all over the world responded to the proposal forcefully, suggesting being awake for 22 hours puts pilots at an increased risk of fatigue, which could lead to complications in the skies. The new regulations would consider pilots fit to fly from the U.K. to California with no backup crew. Despite scientific experts claiming prolonged periods of staying awake can affect reaction time and alertness, the regulation would allow pilots to complete seven early starts in a row, which could lead to serious fatigue.

In an interview with The Press Association, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, Jim McAuslan, said 20 hours of wakefulness is one of many concerns the organization has with the proposed regulation changes.

"We have met with the Civil Aviation Authority to try to get them to realize the dangers of what is being proposed here, but they seem intent on supporting this European scheme," McAuslan told the source. "We need the government to say it won't support this danger to public safety."

Another possible danger to public safety is neglecting to invest in pilot insurance to protect against mishaps in the skies.

The goal of the new regulation is to harmonize aviation regulation across all EU states by the end of the year. The changes to current regulations in countries such as the U.K. reduce crew requirement on long-haul flights, but also increased risk of pilots falling asleep in the cockpit, AOL Travel News reported.

In an interview with the Guardian, the CAA spokesman said the latest version of the proposal would incorporate European maximum working hours and add a new requirement making it illegal for a pilot to operate under conditions of fatigue. The new regulations are aiming to make the European baseline for pilot regulations more restrictive in order to protect pilots.

"We are satisfied that, as a complete package, (the proposal) provides an equivalent level of safety to the current regime," the spokesman said. "If you take Europe as a whole, for lots of pilots it will mean fewer hours."

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