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Pilots' worry over flying-time plan

10 October 2013 09:19

More than half of pilots have already fallen asleep in the cockpit before, according to a poll

More than half of pilots have already fallen asleep in the cockpit before, according to a poll

Pilots and MPs have voiced their concern over proposals for new flying-hour regulations for cockpit crews which could be adopted by the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The British pilots' association Balpa has sharply criticised the proposals, arguing that they could mean pilots would be allowed to land a plane after being awake for 22 hours, and The House of Commons Transport Committee has also expressed its concern.

However, UK ministers and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have backed the plans.

The proposals were rejected by the EU transport committee last week but pilots now fear the European Commission (EC) might still push them through this week, at a time when many MEPs have already left ahead of a recess.

Balpa said the new rules would make flying unsafe - a warning which could prompt more people to take out travel insurance - after a recent poll found more than half (56%) of pilots have already fallen asleep in the cockpit before.

The organisation has now sent case studies to the Government and the CAA.

A pilot in one of the cases said: "I was taking my turn of 40 minutes controlled rest, in the cruise, crossing the Atlantic on a night flight. I was woken after about 20 minutes by a warning sound from the aircraft.

"The captain was awoken at the same time as me. It appears that he had also fallen asleep at the same time, the pilot alert system had been ignored, and so the aircraft reacted to wake us up.

"I reckon I have had the 'nodding dog' feeling of being unable to keep my eyes open on at least five occasions."

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: "It is a scandal that the unelected and unaccountable EC can force through cuts to UK flight safety that have been rejected by MEPs on their own transport committee, UK MPs, pilots across Britain and Europe, scientists and the British flying public.

"British pilots are urging UK MEPs, the Government and Secretary of State for Transport to keep British skies safe for passengers and urge the commission to go back to the drawing board."

A CAA spokesman said: "Aviation safety is our number one priority. We think the proposed European flight-time limitation regulations would maintain the UK's current high safety levels, and will increase safety for UK passengers travelling on some other European airlines."