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European Parliament Wants Pilots to Fly More

Unions Warn of Dangers Posed by Increased Fatigue

The European Parliament is floating the idea of "allowing" pilots more time in the cockpit, in the interest of cutting airlines' costs. While recognizing that some scheduling flexibility would probably help the airlines, unions are worried that increasing the duty cycle for pilots from 12 to 14 hours per day would lead to increased fatigue, and the resultant increase in danger.

The Association of European Airlines, which is backing the proposal, says such a relaxation of the current rule would put more flexibility into the system; it argues that individual States could still tighten the requirements.

The European Cockpit Association, with 31,000 members, is preparing to launch a public campaign against the idea, including strikes. BALPA, whose members are predominantly British, says those advising the European Parliament committed "appalling errors."

BALPA released a statement that said '14 hours' really means something closer to '20 hours,' given all the pre- and post-flight work and prep, as well as stand-by time. Captain Mervyn Granshaw, BALPA's chairman, maintained that 20 hours' staying alert renders about the same effect on a pilot's ability as a blood alcohol content exceeding the standard in Britain for calling a car driver, 'legally drunk.'

FMI: www.europarl.eu.int/opengov/default_en.htm; www.balpa.org.uk/Balpa_Flash.html

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