The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has welcomed a decision by the European Parliament to support harmonised flight time limits for pilots across Europe and give regulators far greater oversight of fatigue.
Following the vote, the CAA said it was vital that the aviation industry finds common purpose on tackling fatigue to ensure the highest possible levels of safety for the travelling public. The CAA is calling on the aviation industry to work together to ensure that reporting is improved, fatigue management is strengthened and the new European rules, when implemented, are utilised to their full to enhance aviation safety.
Fatigue is a serious issue for everyone involved in aviation, and the CAA already has significant work underway to help address concerns that it may impact on flight safety. The European Union proposals mean that the CAA will have greater fatigue oversight powers, and airlines will be forced to take greater responsibility for fatigue instead of focussing solely on duty hours.
Under the harmonisation proposals, developed by the European Aviation Safety Agency, national aviation safety regulators, such as the CAA, will have a much enhanced monitoring role of pilot fatigue - including having access to airline flight data. This will allow regulators to analyse roster and shift patterns to identify problems on specific sectors or routes.
Recent publicity from the pilot union, BALPA, has highlighted significant numbers of apparent fatigue-related incidents, which contrasts with very low reporting to the CAA. Greater oversight powers will help to mitigate this, but if the new system is to work, it is also vital for pilots to report fatigue-related incidents.
Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA, said: “Pilot fatigue is a real risk in the aviation industry and we take the management of fatigue very seriously. Fatigue has multiple causes, and must be managed in a practical, hands-on way, not simply by asking airlines and pilots to comply with a set of timetables. Responsibility for managing fatigue is three-fold: effective regulation, proactive management by airlines and professional behaviour and reporting by pilots. All parties must work together on this to ensure passenger safety remains paramount.”
The EU proposals were drawn up using expert scientific and medical advice and were subject to an extensive public consultation.
Many of the proposed changes are comparable to existing UK rules. As well as strengthening CAA oversight and industry’s fatigue management in the UK, they will also tighten flying hours in some other European countries, improving safety for UK citizens flying with foreign airlines.
The CAA said it will also be investigating measurements of fatigue through a research project that will further the understanding of its causes.