A proposal by the EU to increase the time pilots are on duty could see them flying with levels of fatigue equivalent to five cans of larger.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has said that pilots could see their duty hours rise from nine to almost thirteen hours.
Union representatives told MP’s this new proposal would see pilots flying with fatigue that’s equates to being four times over the legal alcohol limit. MP’s at Westminster were presented with this evidence, which was calculated using a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) computer programme.
Flight safety and security head, Dr Rob Hunter, said: ‘Alcohol and lack of sleep affect our abilities in similar ways’.
He added ‘The limit on pilots’ blood alcohol is rightly set down in law. The Government cannot say on the one hand that flying while over the alcohol limit is unsafe – which it is – and at the same time do nothing to oppose regulations which would allow pilots to be flying equivalent to four times that same limit’.
The European Aviation Safety Agency has stated that consultations were on going and no changes would come into effect until next year. There will be other beneficial changes such as increased rest at a destination for ‘significant time zone crossing’.
Flying hours will be cut to 1,000 on a current 1,200-hour EU limit per 12 calendar months.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport has said: ‘The safety of passengers is paramount, we will not allow this to be compromised. While the European Aviation Safety Agency’s final proposals have yet to be set out, we will seek to use subsequent negations to ensure any new rules provide adequate protection against fatigue’.
Until the CAA is satisfied that this has been achieved, the UK will not vote in favour of any rules.
The authority said it was ‘awaiting final recommendations’ from the EASA, questioning the comparison of alcohol intake and fatigue made by BALPA.