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British Pilots: New Rules Could Mean 'Drunk' Pilots

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PILOT FATIGUE EU
A British pilots' union warned that proposed new EU aviation rules could see pilots with fatigue that's equatable to being four times over the legal alcohol limit. | alamy

Under proposed new aviation rules in the European Union, pilots could see their duty hours go from nine to 13 hours, reports the Daily Mail. That means pilots could be flying with "levels of fatigue equivalent to five cans of lager," one union claims.

According to Metro, the proposed rules would raise the annual maximum flying time to 1,000 hours from Britain’s 900.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) claims this would amount to fatigue that's equatable to being four times over the legal alcohol limit.

"The limit on pilots' blood alcohol is rightly set down in law," Dr Rob Hunter, Balpa's flight safety and security head, told the UK Press Association. "The Government cannot say on the one hand that flying while over the alcohol limit is unsafe — which it is — and at the same time do nothing to oppose regulations which would allow pilots to be flying equivalent to four times that same limit."

In April, a study by the University College London showed that of 492 pilots sampled, 45 percent suffered significant fatigue. And 40 percent had to fly more than the allowed number of hours at least twice monthly, reported AvStop.com.

'The current UK rules are far from perfect, but they are an awful lot better than the EU's plans," added Balpa chairman, Captain Mark Searle.

According to the Daily Mail, The European Aviation Safety Agency said that no changes would come into effect until next year, and that there would be other beneficial changes such as increased rest at a destination for "significant time zone crossing."

A spokesman for the UK Department for Transport said that though the European Aviation Safety Agency's final proposals aren't yet finalized, and the UK "will seek to use subsequent negotiations to ensure any new rules provide adequate protection against fatigue."

The buzz surrounding pilot fatigue is nothing new. In April, a sweeping aviation bill that could thwart proposed new safety regulations, including one that would prevent tired pilots from flying, passed the House. Last month, U.S. airlines told the Obama administration that complying with a regulation to combat pilot fatigue would cost $2 billion a year and over time cut 27,000 industry jobs.

However, in an interview with HuffPost Travel, Miracle on the Hudson pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger points out the need for pilots' physiological needs to be addressed.

In September it was reported that pilot fatigue was likely to be blamed for the plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in 1961.

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