Pilots have poured scorn on claims by the industry’s employer group that their shift patterns are safe, after a BBC investigation exposed high levels of fatigue in the skies.
Passenger jet captains flooded internet forums last week with concerns over being forced to fly while tired. “I worked 180 hours last month, typically seven to 10 hours a day, with no breaks at all for food or rest,” wrote one pilot on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network website. Another said: “The airlines are so up against it, they try to squeeze 26 hours’ flying into a 24-hour day.”
The investigation found 32 UK-based pilots who had flown while fatigued, and that a mid-air collision was narrowly avoided after a pilot and co-pilot ‘rested their eyes’.
The British Airline Pilots Association union immediately called for changes to the CAP 371 regulation. It limits pilots to 900 flying hours per year, but pilots claim airlines treat that as a target, even though it was intended as a maximum in exceptional circumstances.
However, Roger Wiltshire, secretary general of the British Air Transport Association, which represents employers, said: “Pilot fatigue is not seen as a safety issue by the airlines or the safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.”