COMMONS

Follow-up report on flight time limitations published

11 September 2013

The Transport Committee questions the scientific basis of the new EU limit for pilot duty periods at night in their report.

Flight time limitations regulate the number of hours that pilots and crew work in order to prevent fatigue. Fatigue contributes 15–20% of fatal aviation incidents caused by human error.

In July 2013, Member States of the European Union voted strongly in support of a draft proposal on flight time limitations by the European Commission.

This triggered a three-month scrutiny of the new draft EU regulation in the UK parliament. As part of this process the European Scrutiny Committee referred the draft regulation to the Transport Committee for an Opinion.

Chair's comments

Louise Ellman, Chair of the Transport Committee, said:

"Flight time limitations remain a serious concern with 43% of UK pilots reporting that they fall asleep involuntarily while on the flight deck. It is vital that high aviation safety standards are maintained. That is why the new flight time regulation must be closely scrutinised and the Committee's concerns taken forward.

Overall, the Commission's draft regulation represents an improvement on the European Aviation Safety Agency proposal to increase the number of hours pilots can fly, which we criticised in our report a year ago, but we remain concerned about several areas.

We are particularly worried about the apparent reluctance of the Commission when developing these regulations to set a lower limit for the flight duty period at night in accordance with the scientific evidence on this matter. It is disappointing that the UK Government has not pressed for a lower limit.

It is also disappointing that a consensus has not been reached on the draft regulations with crew and pilot representatives.

We recommend that the European Scrutiny Committee requests the UK Government to press the Commission to ensure  an effective monitoring regime is put in place to examine whether the 11 hour limit is at least as safe as the current regime.

We also suggest European Scrutiny Committee requests the European Commission provide an assessment of the regulation two years after its implementation."

Committee conclusions

The Committee also concluded that:

  • The potential under-reporting of pilot fatigue must be properly recognised if it is to be effectively tackled.
  • Information should be regularly published on the use of Commander's discretion to extend their crew's flight duty period if unforeseen circumstances arise.
  • Scientists must have a more central role in the development and assessment of flight time limitation proposals.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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