It has been recognised that pilots fatigue could contribute to fatal accidents.
Experts say that pilot fatigue contributes to 15-20% of fatal aviation accidents caused by human error
This safety risk needs to be managed at company, national and global level by means of:
• uniformly applied Flight Time Limitations,
• effective fatigue risk management by each individual airline, and
• an effective oversight by national aviation authorities and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
There are recorded accidents due to Pilot Fatigue of which in 2009 when an American commuter plane crashed killing everyone on board reported to be caused partly due to pilot fatigue.
Another example might be 16 passengers on an Air Canada flight that were injured as a result of pilot fatigue. The co-pilot woke disorientated from a nap and, believing that the plane was going to collide with another aircraft, put the jet into a dive, sending passengers sprawling in the cabin. What the pilot thought was another plane was actually the planet Venus.
The new EASA rules set on Feb 2016 after a 2 year transition period has highlighted the following
“night flight duty will be reduced to 11h in the new regulation, instead of 11h45 today, more flights will be considered night flights and subject to shorter duty periods. Total flight time in 12 consecutive months will be limited to 1 000 hours instead of 1 300 hours.
The weekly rest will be increased by 12 hours twice a month. The combination of standby at the airport with flight duty will be capped at 16 hours. It is currently 20 hours or 26 hours, or even without limit at all in some Member States.”
However, only 20-30% of pilots will report unfit to fly or file a report under such occurrence, says European Cockpit Association (ECA) representatives.
“The rules are EU-wide. If pilots in one country struggle with them, chances are pilots in all countries will be impaired by fatigue as well,” said ECA President Dirk Polloczek.
“Yet, fearing disciplinary actions or stigmatisation by the employer or colleagues, 70-80% of fatigued pilots would not file a fatigue report or declare to be unfit to fly,” adds Philip von Schöppenthau, ECA’s Secretary General.