European pilots worry about fatigue and associated risks

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There European Cockpit Association (ECA), a representative body for pilots, has shared a report highlighting fatigue risks in the European aviation system and warning of shortcomings in fatigue management. security.

The report, which interviewed nearly 6,900 pilots Europeans from 31 countries, was carried out on behalf of the ECA by the aviation safety management consultancy Baines Simmons and published on August 28, 2023. During the investigation period between 1 and 22 July 2023, Baines Simmons asked pilots various questions about fatigue and fatigue-related safety factors. The number of respondents was higher than initially expected. According to the ECA, “the report shows that fatigue was accumulating in the cockpits already before the peak summer season”three out of four pilots having experienced at least ” A microsleep » while flying a plane for the past four weeks. Meanwhile, a quarter reported experiencing five or more microsleeps while on active duty. “In addition, 72.9% of pilots reported not having enough rest to allow them to recover from fatigue between their tasks”continues the ECA.

According to the representative body, although many pilots surveyed reported insufficient rest periods, almost one in five pilots used “commander’s (CD) discretion to extend flight duties two or more times in the last four weeks”. Worryingly, more than 60% of pilots surveyed are concerned about negative consequences if they refuse to extend their flight duty hours. “These are worrying signs and clear indications that fatigue risks are not well managed at many European airlines”said Otjan de Bruijn, president of the ECA, adding that the report was “concerning”.

The ECA president also pointed out that the pilots were questioned at the start of the peak of summer operations in July 2023which means that ” THE fatigue levels in August could only go in one direction – up”. Another worrying trend noted by de Bruijn is a structural problem within the European aviation system, with airlines not effectively managing fatigue-related safety risks. Report data “demonstrated that there are challenges and inadequacies in the systems for managing operator fatigue risks in all countries represented, as well as gaps in the oversight provided by regulators”added de Bruijn.

Looking at the report, 53.2% of pilots surveyed stated that “ the risk of fatigue was either “mostly poorly managed” or “poorly managed” within their airline.” “The United Kingdom (72.0%), Malta (66.5%), Spain (63.1%) and Ireland (61.7%) are the countries where the highest proportion of crews indicated that (Fatigue Risk Management (FRM)) was generally not or not well managed”the report continues.

The ECA also emphasized that “Only 10.8% of pilots responded that fatigue reports led their airline to make operational changes to improve safety”while only 13.2% said their employers communicate “well with the crew regarding fatigue reports”. Finally, according to the representative body, “only 12% say they trust their airline’s reporting system.”

“We hope that (the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)) and national authorities across Europe will carefully review the report and take the necessary steps to ensure that airlines provide effective security systems. fatigue reporting and properly manage their fatigue-related safety risks”, concluded Philip von Schöppenthau, general secretary of the ECA.

John Walker Avatar