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Union loses battle on pilot hours


Balpa says the new rules could mean pilots being allowed to land a plane having been awake for 22 hours

Balpa says the new rules could mean pilots being allowed to land a plane having been awake for 22 hours

Balpa says the new rules could mean pilots being allowed to land a plane having been awake for 22 hours

UK pilots' union Balpa has lost its battle to persuade MEPs to vote against new European regulations for pilots' flying hours which Balpa consider "unsafe and discredited".

Last week the European Parliament's transport committee voted by 21-13 to reject the EU plans.

But Balpa said that today the full European Parliament had voted not to confirm the committee's decision.

This means the rules can now be implemented, unless the EU Council of Ministers decides to discuss and vote on them to confirm the rejection, Balpa said.

Balpa has said the new rules could mean pilots landing planes after being on duty for as long as 22 hours. The organisation has recently published details of extreme fatigue among cockpit crew.

It said today that the MEPs vote today had followed "intensive lobbying from the airline industry and dodgy last-minute backroom deals".

The UK Government and the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have backed the new regulations.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said today: " British pilots want to make every flight a safe flight and are deeply concerned that these unsafe new EU rules will put the lives of passenger at risk.

"The UK Government and flight safety regulator (the CAA) have helped the EC force through these rules by dodgy last-minute backroom deals, which have been made up as they have gone along."

He went on: "This has been a botched process by the EC from start to finish. Passengers and pilots deserve flight safety rules based on rigorous science and evidence, not secret dodgy deal-making in Strasbourg, which will mean that Britain no longer has the safest skies in Europe."

Balpa now wants the UK Government and the CAA "to carry out and publish an immediate scientific review of the impact of the botched new EU rules and demand that they are discussed and voted on by UK ministers in the EU Council".

The European Regions Airline Association (ERA) welcomed the MEPs' decision, which it said had been passed by 387 votes to 218, with 66 abstentions.

ERA's director general Simon McNamara said: "It is excellent news that MEPs have based their decision to endorse the proposal on the grounds of a robust three-year consultation process by the European Aviation Safety Agency."

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Phil Bennion MEP said: "This is a sensible outcome. Despite concerns from pilots' unions, these rules will not lower safety standards in the UK.

"In fact, a common system for pilot flight times will raise standards in Europe across the board, ensuring that British passengers are safe no matter what EU airline they fly with."

Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for the South East of England, criticised the majority of MEPs who had "failed to reject EC proposals".

He went on: "It's vital that any new rules on flight times place passenger and crew safety as a top priority.

"Under the commission's proposals, we could see pilots working 22-hour shifts and having to do seven early starts in a row. There is already evidence of overworked pilots falling asleep in the cockpit and any proposal which risks this happening more frequently is very risky indeed.

"Major concerns have been raised by pilots' unions and other stakeholders and I am deeply disappointed to see that MEPs from the other political parties have not recognised these concerns."

The CAA welcomed today's vote.

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: "Pilot fatigue is a real risk in the aviation industry and we take the management of fatigue very seriously.

"Fatigue has multiple causes, and must be managed in a practical, hands-on way, not simply by asking airlines and pilots to comply with a set of timetables."

He went on: "Responsibility for managing fatigue is three-fold: effective regulation, proactive management by airlines and professional behaviour, and reporting by pilots. All parties must work together on this to ensure passenger safety remains paramount."

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