Pilots’ union hits back at new EU flying rules

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), the UK’s major pilots union, has opposed the new European Union flying rules.

BALPA has filed a formal complaint to the European Ombudsman over the changes being implemented by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The union said that the new rules, which are designed to harmonise regulations across Europe, could lead to situations where pilots who have been awake for up to 22 hours having to land an aircraft.

Under the current UK rules, pilots work a maximum of three early starts in a row, and a maximum of 95 hours in 14 days. EASA is proposing to change this to seven early starts in a row and a maximum of 110 hours in 14 days. Currently, there are also a number of restrictions regarding pilots being called for duty on days off so that they can plan rest, but under the proposed changes they can be called at any time, on any day, with no restrictions.

BALPA said that a survey it commissioned showed that 89 percent of the UK public would be concerned by the potential changes to shift patterns under the new rules.

Jim McAuslan, BALPA’s general secretary, said: ‘The British public are understandably concerned about their pilots being awake for 22 hours before landing a plane under new EU rules. Evidence shows this is similar to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying.

‘The time is running out for our ministers, MEPs, the UK regulator and MPs to take urgent action and reject these unsafe EU rules to ensure that the skies above Britain remain among the safest in the world,’ it said, adding: ‘British pilots believe that they have been let down by the UK government and the UK regulator responsible for keeping our skies safe.’

Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) said that safety was the only objective of its proposal to revise the current EU rules in relation to flight time limitations (FTL). ‘The Commission is determined to see stronger, safer rules applying across Europe in relation to FTL,’ an EC spokesman said, adding: ‘The proposal will not result in lowering the safety standards in any Member State.’

MEPs are due to vote on the new proposals for flight time limitations in October.