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UK Airline Pilots Study Shows High Percent Of No One Awake In The Cockpit
By Shane Nolan

September 29, 2013 - Tomorrow the European Parliament will vote on new EU rules on pilot flying hours. A new poll shows that more than half of British pilots admit to having fallen asleep on the flight deck and eight out of ten believe their flying abilities have been compromised by tiredness in the past six months.  

Also, three quarters of British pilots have said they do not trust the European regulator in its role as the aviation safety body for Europe. The survey of 500 commercial pilots conducted by ComRes on behalf of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) found that: 

- 56% of pilots admit to having fallen asleep on the flight deck and, even more worryingly, of those who admitted this nearly 1 in 3 (29%) said they woke to find the other pilot asleep; 

- 43% said they believed their abilities have been compromised at least once a month in the last 6 months by tiredness, with 84% saying it has been compromised during the past 6 months; 

- 31% don’t believe their airline has a culture that lends itself to reporting tiredness concerns with only a half (51%) saying they believed their airline Chief Executive would back them if they refused to fly because of tiredness. 

- Unprompted, 49% said pilot tiredness was the biggest threat to flight safety, three times more than any other threat. 

Two British pilots reported that back on August 13, while piloting an Airbus A330 passenger flight both pilots fell asleep. The pilots reported each pilot took turns napping when it was the captains time for a nap when he woke up he found the first officer (copilot) sleeping. The captain said "eventually woke and roused the other but neither knew how long they had dozed." The report was filed with U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority.



The new EU rules is believed to weaken existing safety standards, the new rules will permit a pilot to land an aircraft having been awake for 22 hours or more, with a level of tiredness that is the equivalent of being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying. Nine out of ten members of the British public said this was of concern to them in a recent poll. Dangerously the EU rules will also give new powers to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) allowing it to change the rules in the future without the support or scrutiny of politicians in Europe or national governments. 

BALPA has called on MEPs voting in the EU Transport Committee on Monday to back a motion that would require the European Commission to withdraw its proposals and to subject them to proper scientific and medical scrutiny. BALPA has also made a complaint of maladministration to the European Ombudsman and argued that the rules should have been based on scientific evidence from the outset. 

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of BALPA, said “Making every flight a safe flight is the number one priority for British pilots who have helped establish some of the highest safety standards in Europe. Tiredness is already a major challenge for pilots who are deeply concerned that unscientific new EU rules will cut UK standards and lead to increased levels of tiredness, which has been shown to be a major contributory factor in air accidents. 

“A European regulator that lacks scientific and medical expertise is being allowed to tear up UK flight safety rules and is being supported in this by the Conservative UK Government Minister and the UK regulator. Why this Government is bending the knee to Europe rather than the wisdom of the piloting profession with over 40 million flying hours experience is as baffling as it is dangerous." 

On Monday MEPs in the EU Transport and Tourism Select Committee will vote on new “flight time limitations” proposals, which will replace the current regulations for the UK. British transport ministers will also vote on the proposals in the EU Council of Ministers, as will all MEPs in a full parliamentary session. The rules must be backed by MEPs and Ministers to go ahead. 

British pilots believe that they have been let down by the UK Government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK regulator responsible for keeping our skies safe. They also believe that the CAA has totally failed in its duty to stand up for UK safety levels by not insisting upon a full scientific evaluation of the proposals and is backing them despite the lack of any supporting scientific evidence. In comparison, the Dutch Parliament has called on its government to reject the proposal on the basis that they wish to protect their own high quality safety laws at a national level.

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