European pilots flight time limits

MEPs (members of the European Parliament) voted for firmer flight time limits for pilots, saying that safety is a top priority.

However, some people are complaining they did not go far enough.

A total of 218 MEPs voted in favor, and 66 abstained.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association says the new EU legislation is not strict enough. A recent survey reported that over half of all British airline pilots reported they fell asleep while their plane was in flight.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said “It will bring better protection of passengers and safer working conditions for crew. This is a victory for common sense.”

Several accidents and near misses in Europe and the U.S. have been blamed on pilot fatigue.

Stricter flight time limits include:

  • A pilot’s duty shift will be limited to 16 hours maximum, including standby hours. In some European Union member states 20 to 26 hour stints are common.
  • Night flight duty will be limited to 11 hours – a reduction of forty-five minutes. Pilot unions say the limit should be 10 hours.
  • Pilots will not be allowed to fly more than 1,000 hours in 12 consecutive months, compared to 1,300 before the new legislation.
  • After a significant crossing of time zones, pilots will be granted five days’ rest at home base. In some member states they only get two or less.

The European Commission says that scientific studies have demonstrated that long pilot hours undermine flight safety.

European airlines have welcomed the new flight time limits, but disagree with pilots and associations that say they are not strict enough.

Reuters quotes Michael Cramer, a member of the European Parliament (Green Party), who said “There are serious concerns about the implications of the Commission’s proposal for pilots and cockpit personnel and ignoring these concerns will put lives at risk.”

The new law comes into force at the end of this year. It allows a two-year period for the legislation to be fully implemented.