ialpa_noticeFlight and Duty Time Limitations – A brief history


As always IALPA is primarily concerned with Technical issues particularly when regulations are proposed that could materially affect the day to day operation of an aircraft in a safe manner.

For years various nations have established Flight and Duty time limits for pilots in their own jurisdiction. However it was generally accepted that a more harmonised and internationally developed and accepted limits would contribute to air safety by removing the excesses that some National systems allowed. IALPA and the ECA ( European Cockpit Association) supported this idea.

It can be of no surprise that when legislation was proposed that could affect the length of the pilots working day (or night) IALPA through the Safety and Technical Committee was tasked with ensuring that whatever limitations were established, that they would be calculated using the latest scientific and medical data available in order to prevent any accident or incident in which fatigue might conceivably play a role.

In recent years IFALPA has developed a document using many sources including the offices of NASA in the USA to establish a base line of operations from which they believed that all flight and duty time limitations should be based.

In 1990 the European Parliament began the harmonisation task and this task has continued to this present day. A detailed history of this procedure is published below but perhaps the casual reader might be interested in the most current and salient points.

EU Rapporteur Mr Brian Simpson MEP was tasked with establishing a set of limitations acceptable to both flight crew and airline operators. Despite the Pilots representative body, the ECA (European Cockpit Association) vehemently opposing the Simpson proposal, the European Parliament voted to adopt the package as presented.

Pilots had for many years claimed that scientific evidence indicated that these proposals were in fact unsafe and convened a meeting of the European Transport Safety Council where experts in the area of fatigue management from 5 European nations including Ireland demonstrated that the package could lead to excessive fatigue amongst pilots and thereby put the travelling public at risk!

Currently ECA are endeavouring to ensure that should these proposals are put before the Council of Transport Ministers of Europe that they are seen as flawed, and rejected. Instead the Council of Transport should insist that the latest scientific and medical data that is currently available should be incorporated into any future proposal.


History of the European FTL issue

When elaborating the second liberalisation package in 1989, the Council and the Commission agreed that the Community Air Transport Policy had to address also the harmonisation of the regulatory framework applicable to civil aviation in order both to maintain a high level of safety and to ensure fair competition in the internal market. In that context, the Community adopted Council Regulation (EEC) No 3922/91 on the harmonisation of technical requirements and administrative procedures in the field of civil aviation with the aim of establishing and keeping up to date harmonised rules for the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of aircraft, and for personnel and organisations involved in these tasks.

In 1990 the Commission made an attempt to harmonise FTL rules at EU level. But it could not convince the airlines nor the pilots to have their support to its draft. The Commission than left it to the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) to try to resolve this problem in the context of the JAR OPS 1.

In March 1995 the JAA Committee adopted JAR OPS 1 without its Sub Part Q on flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements (FTL) due to the lack of support from both the airlines and the pilots to this Sub Part.

In June 1996 the Commission decided to make another attempt and convened a Forum, which involved representatives of the pilots, the airlines, the scientists and medical experts and some National Aviation Authorities. In 1997, the Commission consulted informally its Member States on a draft based on the work done within this Forum, but did not receive enough support, whether from the industry or the Member states, to present it formally to the Council.

In March 2000, the Commission presented to the European Parliament (EP) and the Council a proposal for the addition of the text of JAR-OPS 1, adjusted where necessary to comply with Community law and policies, as a new Annex III to Regulation 3922/91. Sub Part Q covering FTL was missing from this proposal.

ECA convinced the EP to come forward with a proposal setting out the flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements under the form of a new Sub Part Q. After, 12 months of efforts, ECA could not convince the representatives of the European Airlines to adopt a more medical and scientifically based approach and therefore, the European Parliament was therefore unable to use a joint industry recommendation on which to base its amendment on FTL.

Unfortunately, the EP rapporteur, Mr B. Simpson has decided to adopt an approach similar to the air carriers by using their position on FTL, which ignores the scientific results on human fatigue and Crew performance.

The ECASS Group, composed of representatives from different scientific groups within Europe, who has been involved in the investigation of aircrew fatigue provided its opinion on the draft report prepared by the Member of the European Parliament confirming the views expressed by ECA on the important risks for air safety that this document could generate.

The main concern of the ECASS Group with this document:

“is not just with the individual points, although it would certainly be concerned with all of these. It is that, when taken together, and applied in an environment of increasing competition, individual airlines may be encouraged, or indeed compelled by business considerations, to operate everywhere close to the defined limits. In that case, we would certainly consider it likely that this would lead to a significant reduction in the safety of airline operations. ECASS would therefore recommend that this document is redrafted to reflect the scientific position more closely.”

To meet the European Parliament’s concern about the absence of provisions on flight, duty and rest times for the crew, a new subpart Q has been included by the Commission in its amended proposal1, constituting an essential requirement obliging the operators to lay down schedules for these three elements of safety in accordance with the applicable requirements. The Commission recognises that these applicable requirements are presently still national and un-harmonised.



An operator shall draw up a schedule for crew members laying down, in accordance with applicable requirements, flight and duty time limitations and rest periods.

On September 3, 2003 the European Parliament adopted in Strasbourg the so-called Simpson Report.

However, due to outstanding problems regarding the issue of Cabin Crew Training Requirements (Sub Part O), the Council has not discuss this amendment since its adoption by the European Parliament, whilst the Commissioner responsible for this issue, Madame De Palacio has tried her best to avoid to be involved in an issue for which she has not sympathy at all.

ECA Member Associations organised a European-wide FTL ‘Day of Action’ against the proposal for an amendment by the European Parliament on Sub Part Q. The purpose of this ’Day of Action’ was to exercise pressure on the European Commission and the Member States, through the travelling public and the media, against the European Parliament proposal.

As a follow-up to this effort, ECA also triggered the organisation of a special Conference by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) on the EP proposal for a Sub Part Q, which took place in Brussels, on February 19, 2003.

Over the last three months, ECA has continue to pressure the European Commission’s services, the aim being to instigate a further review of the EP proposal according to medical and scientific standards.

Simultaneously, the EP exerted strong pressures on the Commission and the Council to push its amendment through. The Parliament threatened the Commission not to proceed with the adoption of proposed legislation on other issues, such as the railway liberalisation, the port liberalisation or the Single European Sky, knowing that they are priority topics to the Commissioner. It is also clear that Commissioner De Palacio has adopted a delaying tactic, counting on the termination of her mandate in May 2004, as is equally the case for the Members of the European Parliament, to avoid becoming involved in this very controversial issue.

ECA has therefore intensified its efforts to ensure that the Commission will carry out the requested review, and it this regards it has met with Madame De Palacio on May 15, 2003.

Unfortunately, it appeared subsequently, that all of this was not enough to convince the Commissioner of the need of a more scientific and medical approach on this issue.

Indeed, at a meeting with Mr Simpson, Mr Hadzidakis, Madame De Palacio in Strasbourg on Wednesday the 4th of June 2003 the Commissioner committed herself to present without delay the Parliament’s proposal for a Sub Part Q as it is, to the Council, and wait for its reaction.

At the same time, it appears that the Association of European Airlines will actively lobby the Council for the adoption of this Sub Part Q, whilst equally suggesting a further amendment to include “non time zone adapted” operations (Long Haul) within the scope of the EP proposal.

At it’s 122nd meeting, the Board of ECA decided to resume the Campaign Committee in order to identify new actions to taken against the adoption of any FTL scheme not based on scientific and medical evidence.