New European rules cause concerns over pilot tiredness
16 February 2012
by Stephen Gregory
There are concerns that the adoption in the UK of European regulations which allow pilots to work for longer will lead to a higher risk of them falling asleep while flying.
According to a survey many pilots already struggle to stay awake in the cockpit, and pilot fatigue has been blamed in part for a plane crash in America in 2009.
The new laws proposed by the European Aviation Safety Authority would see pilots asked to work more often, work more hours overnight and endure more consecutive early starts. According to Rob Hunter of the British Airline Pilots Association, these will serve to make pilots tired more of the time, “increasing the risk across the board”.
Research by the University of Surrey has identified a marked lapse in concentration after a person is awake for 14 hours, and suggests that beyond that speed of reactions fall quickly to the level of somebody over the legal drink driving alcohol limit.
The European Aviation Safety Authority says however that their proposals are based on the latest science and will make European airlines safer. Bob Jones of the Civil Aviation Authority stressed that the rules “shouldn’t be taken in isolation” and that they are part of a “much wider package”.
Upon their announcement last year, the new rules sparked protests, and while they have been modified slightly since then in order to compel airlines to manage pilot fatigue, for some this is still not enough.