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NEWS Last modified on April 17, 2012

Association warns of dangers of pilot fatigue

Canada's Transport Safety Board has published a report which says that an incident in which an aircraft dived and caused 16 injuries was due to pilot fatigue.

Canada's Transport Safety Board has published a report which says that an incident in which an aircraft dived and caused 16 injuries was due to pilot fatigue.

The findings of the incident, which happened on an Air Canada B767 flight between Toronto and Zurich in January 2011, has prompted the British Airline Pilots Assocation (BALPA) to warn that pilot fatigue is a serious problem with potentially serious consequences.

And it claims that this fact “seems to have escaped the European authorities who are currently engaged in an exercise which will drastically reduce fatigue avoidance provisions in the UK”.

Jim McAuslan, BALPA’s general secretary, states: “There is little doubt that incidents like this will happen to UK aircraft more often if the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)'s plans are not changed.

“EASA's fatigue proposals, which will replace the UK's domestic arrangements, will drastically increase the total amount of time pilots could be awake for – up to 22 hours – before landing their aircraft. 

“And, crucially given this incident, will allow pilots to fly far further without a relief crew member on board.

“Napping on the flight deck can be helpful and improve alertness for landing, but obviously it is not without its risks as this incident shows. 

“On top of this kind of problem, the number of pilots falling asleep at the same time – already distressingly high – is set to rise with EASA's plans. 

“In a recent poll of BALPA members, 43% reported having fallen asleep on the flight deck, and of those, 31% said they had awoken to find the other pilot also asleep.

“The Canadian report is a timely reminder to the CAA and the UK hovernment to take the pilot fatigue with the seriousness it deserves, and to agree an opt out for the UK so we can maintain the current high safety standards in the UK which we have enjoyed for decades.”

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