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European Aviation Safety Agency Sets Flight Time Limitations For Commercial Pilots
By Mike Mitchell

October 1, 2012 - The UK’s aviation safety regulator today welcomed new EU rules that will standardize working hours for European airline pilots. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the new rules will benefit UK passengers and will not compromise safety.

The CAA said it was pleased that the EU’s final draft, published today, includes several additional changes requested by the regulator, such as a 16 hour cap on combined airport standby and flight duty, plus additional requirements for the management of night time flight duty. 

The new ‘flight time limitations’ for pilots and cabin crew have been developed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the EU body now responsible for rule-making in areas of European aviation such as flight operations, airworthiness and licensing.

It follows an extensive consultation period involving an array of aviation authority safety experts, scientists, airline associations and pilot and cabin crew union representatives. Under the new system the CAA will have far greater access to airline information to help oversee fatigue management of airline crew members. High levels of reporting by airlines of their compliance with the new flight time limitations will be required. Enforcement action will be taken if necessary.

Gretchen Haskins, Director of Safety Regulation at the CAA, said: “Passenger safety is our number one priority, which we will never compromise. We are convinced that EASA’s flight time limitation regulations will improve accountability and transparency in the European aviation industry, maintaining the UK’s high safety levels and increasing safety for many UK travelers.” 

The CAA said its endorsement of EASA’s flight time limitations was based on its extensive knowledge, operational oversight, research projects and engagement with scientists, adding that the new regime will provide a sound basis to maintain the UK’s current high safety levels.



EASA published flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements (FTL) for commercial air transport as an Opinion, the proposed rules contain more than 30 safety improvements compared to current requirements and introduce new limitations to the way crews can be scheduled. The Opinion takes full account of the fact that fatigue is one of the main factors affecting human performance and makes no provision for increased pilot flight hours. On the contrary, allowed duty periods at night are reduced, rest for flights with time zone crossings is significantly increased, and new rules are introduced for limiting crew standby. 

These FTL rules are the final step in a fully transparent rulemaking process, with unprecedented scientific input and public consultation. More than 50 scientific studies were analyzed, while all concerned stakeholder groups including flight and cabin crew organizations, airlines, and Member State representatives were consulted throughout the process. 

Commenting on the release of the Opinion, EASA's Executive Director, Patrick Goudou, said: "These harmonized flight crew duty time rules are based on scientific evidence, risk assessment and best practice. With this Opinion, EASA proves once again its commitment to make no compromise with the safety of air passengers in Europe and throughout the world." The Opinion will now enter the legislative process. It will be finalized by the European Commission and must be approved by Member States, with Parliamentary scrutiny. The new rules are expected to be adopted into EU law after mid-2013 and fully implemented by the end of 2015. 

The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint.

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