The prospect of strike action towards the end of the summer has been raised amid concerns that some airlines are fatiguing pilots by forcing them to work for 20 hours without an adequate break.
Brian Strutton, new general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, said that employees at one major, unidentified carrier are considering industrial action over the issue which, if approved, would take disrupt flights in September.
He claimed new flight time rules introduced by the European Aviation Safety Agency in February had made it easier for airlines to force pilots to fly for longer and that “some real horror stories being reported to us”.
Strutton, who took over as head of the union earlier this month, told The Daily Telegraph it had compiled “really worrying stats” that raised broader concerns about safety.
Some pilots are working for 20 hours with no time for rest breaks between flight turnarounds, he claimed.
“We’ve just done a survey and a touch under half of pilots have told us that they’ve been compromised by fatigue at least once a month this year,” he said. “And by compromised, it’s a polite way of saying dropping off or losing concentration at the controls.”
Balpa has been negotiating new roster arrangements following the new EASA rules.
“In most airlines we’ve tried to keep a sensible balance in place still,” Strutton told the newspaper. “One of the major airlines we haven’t done that and we’ve fallen into dispute with that airline and our members in that airline have asked us to sanction a strike ballot in that company.”
Separately, Strutton said that defence technology company Qinetiq was being lined up to research the impact of drone strikes on aircraft.
Balpa is organising the study with the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport.
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