Pilots are being put under pressure to fly when they are too tired, increasing the risk of a serious accident, the Daily Mail has reported.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) has warned new European Union rules over flying hours – due to come into force in the UK in 2012 – are “flawed” and encourage exhausted pilots to continue flying.
The EU rules will enable pilots to fly for up to 14 hours during the day and 11 hours and 45 minutes at night, but the union said tiredness is already a factor in up to 15% of accidents.
Since July 2008, all EU member states have moved towards joint rules limiting flight time. But individual countries, like the UK, have been able to opt-out.
But from 2012, the European Aviation Safety Agency takes responsibility for setting the rules governing flying hours, and Balpa believes it will “substantially dilute” current UK rules.
Jim McAuslan, general secretary of Balpa, said: “At the beginning of this year, the scientists – some of the most noted fatigue experts in the world – presented their report that concluded the EU rules were indeed unsafe. But to its shame European Aviation Safety Agency has ignored this, and is now putting passenger lives at risk.
“Fatigue is a factor now in 10% to 15% of all air accidents, and pressure on pilots is growing.”
Pilots have said UK standards on flight time limitations “are under sustained attack by airlines and EU regulators”.