Pilots' union raises concerns over fatigue

Pilots' union raises concerns over fatigue

Concern over pilot fatigue is being raised today as airlines embark on one of the busiest periods of the year as almost two million people jet off from the UK for the August bank holiday.

The British Airline Pilots Association warns that fatigue is one of the biggest threats to flight safety and wants to ensure the demanding summer schedules and "punishing" roster patterns do not put safety at risk.

The union is highlighting the importance of making sure pilots are given adequate time to rest between flights.

The move comes as airlines are working to implement new European Aviation Safety Agency flight time limitation laws that come in to effect from February next year. 

Pilots want reassurance from airlines that accurate reporting of fatigue is important to them.

Balpa is supporting pilots in reporting specific serious incidences of fatigue to their employers and the CAA.

General secretary Jim McAuslan said: “Pilots from all airlines have told us this summer has been the busiest they remember and they are flying their socks off to ensure passengers have a summer holiday.

“But safety must come first and we must be certain that keeping to demanding summer schedules does not mean pilots become fatigued.

“Pilots have raised the issue of recruitment and say they think airline managements have not got their numbers right. After the summer Balpa will be sitting down with managements asking what went wrong.”

Head of flight safety Rob Hunter said: “Previous surveys have shown fatigue is underreported. We want to de-stigmatise the issue and remove the barriers that discourage pilots from sharing their experience.

“Balpa is currently carrying out a project to investigate reporting culture within commercial aviation and give an accurate picture of the extent of fatigue within the industry.

“We are striving towards a culture that tackles the issue head on. Pilots want industry-wide open discussions about fatigue.

“Given the present situation of under reporting, they would like reassurance that their managers also see reporting of fatigue as a priority.”

Meanwhile, Balpa is urging airlines and regulators to look at what steps they could take to ensure devices powered by lithium batteries are safely transported.

Lithium battery fires have caused at least three cargo aircraft crashes and the UN safety regulator has banned a specific type of lithium battery - lithium metal - from being carried as cargo on passenger aircraft.

Balpa is calling on the UK safety regulator to consider extending this restriction so that no lithium battery of any kind is carried as cargo in aircraft until further research has been carried out on how they can be transported safely in bulk.

Balpa flight safety specialist Steve Landells said: “Lithium batteries are essential part of the gadgets that enable people to travel light and stay connected, but flight safety comes first and we must protect against any aircraft fire risk.

“UK pilots want to make every single flight is a safe one and believe small changes to current good safety practices will help do this.

“We are working with airlines and passengers to keep everyday lithium batteries, which are vital parts of the technology that many people depend on for work and pleasure, on the aircraft but out of the luggage hold.”

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