“Half of airline pilots report fatigue which could jeopardise passenger safety” warned just 2 months ago the London School of Economics (LSE) – a key finding of a new Safety Culture study, carried out jointly with EUROCONTROL. It highlights that fatigue strikes 6 out of 10 European pilots – but that only 2 out of 10 pilots think that fatigue is taken seriously by their airline. This confirms previous surveys among pilots, which showed that fatigue is a reality in Europe’s cockpits.
“These findings are serious enough to serve as a wake-up call for European and national aviation authorities,” continues Polloczek. “But the problem is that many national authorities have insufficient resources and knowhow to properly oversee the new rules and their correct application. This is why EASA – the European Aviation Safety Agency – has a central role to play: one of guiding the work on a harmonised interpretation and implementation. We therefore call upon EASA to be more active and to provide clear interpretation guidelines to authorities, airlines and aircrew alike.”
This 1st anniversary also shows that proactive Fatigue Risk Management (FRM) systems need to play a more prominent role in airlines’ efforts to reduce crew fatigue. FRM is, in its essence, complementary to the prescriptive FTL rules, allowing airlines to ‘customise’ some aspects of the regulation. Those two components taken together were supposed to reconcile adequate fatigue protection and flexibility for airlines to operate efficiently.
“In reality, however, Fatigue Risk Management remains either misunderstood, poorly handled, inadequately overseen or simply used as a smokescreen to cover ongoing malpractice,” says Philip von Schöppenthau, ECA Secretary General. “Our own benchmarking among almost 30 airlines shows that too few operators have actually implemented a functional and effective system to manage their crews’ fatigue risk. It is therefore crucial that EASA and the NAAs invest more in training and auditing of the operators. Otherwise, FRM risks remaining a paper-tiger exercise with no real effect on fatigue.”
This 1st anniversary is also the start of a new scientific review of Europe’s FTL rules. Next month, a consortium of research institutes will kick-off their work, which is expected to result in a final report in Feb. 2019. “This is review is crucial,” says von Schöppenthau, “because already several years ago leading scientific fatigue experts had warned that the new FTL rules would be insufficient to counter the safety risks associated with pilot fatigue. We therefore welcome this study and hope it will help EU regulators to finally close the safety lacunae of today’s rules.”