Published on February 21st, 2016 | by Jim Lee


New pilot fatigue rules come into effect

New EASA Flight Time Limitations (FTL) rules (EU Reg. 83/2014), came into effect on 18th February, as the industry shifts to a fully harmonised European set of rules aimed at preventing air crew fatigue, from constituting a risk to flight safety. EASA is the European Union Authority for aviation safety and enjoys technical, financial and legal autonomy to ensure the highest common level of safety protection for EU citizens within the EU and worldwide.

While every air operator is obliged to proactively manage the safety risks associated with fatigue, both in the cockpit and the cabin, simple compliance with the new rules will not be sufficient anymore. However, with low levels of understanding of the complex new rules, diverging interpretations, and only slow progress towards genuine fatigue risk management at company level. Many operators and national authorities are not ready yet for the shift. This is in spite of a transition period of two years,

Pilot fatigue a wakeup call (BALPA)

Pilot fatigue a wakeup call

After a controversial legislative process in 2013, where adoption by the European Parliament was not certain due to concerns about an insufficient scientific basis, the new rules will now cover all aspects of fatigue risk mitigation, including those which previously were still covered by national legislation, such as time-zone crossing, sleep-disrupting flight schedules (e.g. early morning starts) etc.

“Moving to a harmonised EU-wide system is a logical step to do as pilot fatigue does not stop at national borders” says The European Cockpit Association (ECA) President Dirk Polloczek. “Therefore, strong scientifically-based FTL rules are a must and we look forward to the operational data- driven scientific review that EASA is mandated to carry out within the next 3 years. This is particularly important for highly fatiguing night flights, sleep-disrupting schedules, and standby rules, where we consider the new rules must be improved.”

“As a stand-alone act, the introduction of the new FTL rules will not be able to fully mitigate the risks of fatigue in the cockpit and cabin,” according to Didier Moraine Chairman of the ECA FTL Working Group. “This is why setting up a robust fatigue risk management system inside each company is not only a legal obligation, but also an absolute must for any company that is serious about identifying its own fatigue related risks and then actively mitigating them” he added.

Pilot fatigue (ECA)“Due to their complexity, the new rules constitute a very concrete and immediate challenge” Mr Moraine continued. “Interpreting them correctly and in a harmonised manner will remain difficult not only for the companies and national authorities, but also for the individual pilots. This is why ECA developed an online FTL Calculator – allowing each pilot to calculate the legal limits for their daily flight duties. Crucially, we trust in EASA to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure correct and uniform interpretation and implementation of the new rules.”

As our survey among 6.000 European pilots showed, the application of the new EASA rules is a timely reminder that fatigue is a reality today in Europe’s cockpits,” according to ECA Secretary General Philip von Schöppenthau. “And the real extent of the problem is still not reflected in official data as over 70% of all fatigue occurrences are not reported. The good news, however, is that under the new EU Occurrence Reporting Regulation (Reg. 376/2014) fatigue reporting is no longer a choice but an obligation. Provided that companies have a sound safety culture, based on Just Culture principles, this should encourage pilots and cabin crew to report fatigue, and to do so without fear of reprisals.”

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) was created in 1991 and is the representative body of European pilots at European Union (EU) level. It represents over 38,000 European pilots from the National pilot Associations in 37 European states. In addition, ECA has two Associate Members from outside the European region.

EASA Headquarters

EASA Headquarters

EASA survey on ‘2-person-in-the-cockpit’ recommendation

Separately and as a follow-up to the Germanwings Flight 9525 accident, EASA is seeking feedback from operators, pilots and cabin crew, authorities and other interested parties, to assess the effectiveness of the ‘2-person-in-the-cockpit’ recommendation.

This recommendation was issued by an EASA Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) in March 2015. The SIB recommends at least two authorised persons to be in the flight crew compartment at all times, or other equivalent measures to be applied by the operator. The recommendation was based on the information available at the time following the Germanwings accident, and pending the outcome of the technical investigation by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA).

The Germanwings Task Force, in its report of July 2015, recommended to maintain the ‘2-persons-in-the-cockpit’ recommendation and to evaluate its benefits. This is the purpose of the current EASA survey. The closing date for submissions is 11th March 2016.

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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