Transport Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 164

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Transport Committee

on Wednesday 22 February 2012

Members present:

Mrs Louise Ellman (Chair)

Jim Dobbin

Julie Hilling

Mr John Leech

Paul Maynard

Iain Stewart

Graham Stringer

Julian Sturdy

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Dr Rob Hunter, Head of Safety, British Airline Pilots Association, Kris Major, Cabin Crew lead representative from BMI, Unite, and Jon Horne, Executive Board Director, European Cockpit Association, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Good morning, gentlemen, and welcome to the Transport Select Committee. Could you please identify yourselves for our records with your name and the organisation you are representing?

Dr Hunter: I am Dr Hunter, Head of Safety, British Airline Pilots Association.

Kris Major: I am Kris Major representing Unite.

Jon Horne: I am Jon Horne. I am an Executive Board Director of the European Cockpit Association.

Q2 Chair: Thank you very much. BALPA tell us in their evidence that 43% of pilots say they fell asleep on the flight deck, and 31%, on waking, found the other pilot asleep. Those are very scary figures. Could you tell us on what that information is based?

Dr Hunter: That is based on a poll of our membership conducted by ComRes, a professional polling agency. It is a representative group of our members. It is 500 of the 8,800 members that we have. It specifically relates to two-crew operations, where there are just two pilots on the flight deck. I must say that it probably represents an underestimate of the true figures because, of course, it relies on the pilots having knowledge that they have woken up from a micro-sleep, whereas the nature of micro-sleeps is that people will wake from them and not realise that.

Q3 Chair: Are we going to see more accidents if EASA’s current proposals go ahead?

Dr Hunter: I think so.

Q4 Chair: Mr Major, what is your view on that?

Kris Major: If you consider the fact that under the new proposals there is a potential for a 17% increase in daily work loads from the early morning flights, the statistics would speak for themselves in that fatigue is much more likely and therefore the increase in accidents is more likely.

Q5 Chair: Mr Horne, do you share that view?

Jon Horne: I would share that view. You may have seen in our written submission a particular piece of scientific research highlighting that accident rates are five and a half times higher for duty periods over 13 hours. Since these proposals dramatically increase the duty periods and the time awake pilots may experience, we would expect the accident rate to increase commensurately.

Q6 Chair: The current proposals are for uniform safety regulations. Do you not think that might help to keep UK passengers safe flying on non-British airlines?

Dr Hunter: Yes. Uniform safety regulations are good, but they should be a uniform high level of safety regulation. At the moment the EASA fatal accident rate for flights is about 55% higher than north American accident rates. There should be uniformity, yes, but at a uniform high standard.

Q7 Chair: Why should the UK need stricter regulations than other countries? Why should that be the case?

Dr Hunter: The UK might have stricter regulations in countries that perform less well than the UK. The reason why you would want that is for the protection of the public.

Q8 Chair: When you say "perform less well", what exactly do you mean?

Dr Hunter: That would be our fatal accident rates.

Q9 Chair: Can you show that? Is there actual evidence that there is a worse accident rate in countries with lower limits?

Dr Hunter: Where it correlates with lower limits, the best data would be the 2003 Goode paper that was referred to earlier that looked at the accident rate with increasing flight time. That demonstrates very clearly that, with longer duty hours, there are a greater number of accidents.

Q10 Chair: You also say in your written evidence, Dr Hunter, that the CAA’s three main areas of concern about the original proposals have not been fully addressed. Which particular concerns have not been addressed?

Dr Hunter: That relates, for example, to the duty periods overnight. The EASA proposal is that it is 11 hours, whereas the CAA wanted 10 hours. In relation to the number of duty hours allowed over a 14-day period, EASA is proposing 110 hours. The CAA had wanted less time than that. There are also the recovery periods. The rules in that area are quite complicated. In all these areas the CAA’s requests have not been fully met.

Q11 Mr Leech: Dr Hunter, I remember going to a briefing from BALPA in this building a few months ago where we were told about those quite disturbing figures to which the Chair referred. I do not know whether that was the first time that that information was put into the public domain.

Dr Hunter: Yes.

Q12 Mr Leech: Do you think that if you had had that information, and that information had been in the public domain some time ago, those things would have been taken into consideration before proposals were recommended that were going to make the situation worse?

Dr Hunter: Yes; I think you are right. In a presentation we discussed the risks of pilots involuntarily falling asleep, and, although seemingly alarming, that sort of data is entirely predictable from the CAA-sponsored SAFE program. This is a computer program where you input the rosters and you can predict how tired pilots will get. Up until just a few weeks ago, when we were preparing for this meeting, that program had still not been released so we have not been able to use that program. Had that been available you could easily demonstrate that.

Q13 Mr Leech: If I recall, it was suggested that this information was not forthcoming because there was the potential for disciplinary action against pilots if they admitted that they had fallen asleep.

Dr Hunter: Yes.

Q14 Mr Leech: How could we do things better to make sure that we have the correct data so that, when we are considering changing the regulations, fatigue is properly taken into consideration?

Dr Hunter: We need an open reporting culture. Pilots are fearful that if they report fatigue they will face a quasi-disciplinary process. In fact, it is unlawful for a pilot to fly while fatigued. Their concern is that they are effectively writing the evidence for their own prosecution. We need better protection for pilots when they report fatigue and better rules that prevent them getting fatigued in the first place.

Q15 Mr Leech: Finally, when pilots have admitted fatigue and that they have fallen asleep, is there any evidence that disciplinary action has been taken against them?

Dr Hunter: We commonly receive letters and deal with cases where pilots feel that the process they then get embroiled in is more fatiguing and more stressful for them than the original fatigue and the occurrence of fatigue itself. It becomes the better option for them to put up with a bit of fatigue rather than report it.

Q16 Chair: Mr Major, you want to comment on this.

Kris Major: Yes. At Unite we receive many reports where fatigued people-cabin crew-who want to report fatigue are discouraged by the airlines involved. In our view it is quite a problem for us.

Q17 Paul Maynard: Dr Hunter, it is clear from what has already been said that many European low fares airlines seem to be quite in favour of having standardisation across Europe as a whole. What is your view on the argument that because aviation is now a global business-we do not just fly within Europe-the airlines are putting their economic interests first rather than the safety of passengers?

Dr Hunter: It relates to the question of why we have regulation. We have regulation where there is a risk to public safety and a risk that the economic interest of an industry that has the capacity to harm public safety overrules safety. This is the problem. In the United States we see the proposal for a vastly better rule set, but that is against the background of a fatigue-related accident. That accident is mentioned in the preamble to the revision of their fatigue rules, but they are hugely more controlling of the risk of fatigue than we are in Europe at the moment.

Q18 Paul Maynard: It is also clear in the evidence that the initial EASA proposals were opposed by the CAA on a number of key criteria, yet now the CAA is giving the impression, as we may well hear in the next evidence session, that it is now content with those proposals. Are you surprised at the CAA’s change of opinion? Do you think there is any reason for it or can you explain it?

Dr Hunter: The CAA has a difficult role. That role may not be that well understood. It is a dual role of having a safety regulatory responsibility but also an economic regulatory responsibility, where the profitability of the airlines is an issue for the CAA. That is mostly well managed, but in this area you see the problems and the tensions. I have not seen the support for the CAA’s position from the CAA’s scientific advisers in this regard. I would want to see that. In the absence of that, I am left speculating as to why there would be this change. I must say that these rules are totally outwith the mainstream of scientific evidence in this area. They are totally outwith that.

Q19 Paul Maynard: You said you would be speculating. Can I tempt you to speculate?

Dr Hunter: I think it is the conflict of economic interest and pressures from airlines.1

Q20 Julie Hilling: First, let me declare my membership of Unite. Could you help me by describing what happens during a long flight in terms of any ability to get rest for pilots or flight crew and when duty finishes? Does duty finish when you turn the engine off? When does your duty time finish? I am trying to get a handle on where rest times start and finish.

Dr Hunter: The terminology is extremely confusing and it is a very big issue in this area. The flight duty period starts when the pilot reports for duty. That is normally to a crew room where they do their pre-flight planning material. They look at the weather and the fuel and so on. That can last an hour or so. Then they go out to the aircraft and start flying the aeroplane. In two-crew operations, where there is just a pilot and co-pilot, normally there would be no rest opportunities. That sort of aeroplane needs both pilots to be awake all the time. However, there can be arrangements where the airlines endorse a napping policy, where one pilot goes to sleep during the flight. We think that is unsafe. In our submission we illustrated why that is unsafe. Often what can happen is that the other pilot, who is meant to be awake, can involuntarily fall asleep. That is not good.

When they land and the brakes go on on the aeroplane, that is the end of their flight duty period, but they still have a further period of duty where they do the post-flight paperwork and put in any maintenance reports and so on. That can go on for about another half an hour.

Q21 Julie Hilling: But that would then be included in the rest periods.

Dr Hunter: No, it is not. That is part of the duty period. Other operations allow for there to be an extra pilot, and there can formally be arrangements for the pilots to go away from their crew seats, lie down and get some sleep.

Q22 Julie Hilling: Presumably, on top of that, there is transfer to a hotel or wherever.

Dr Hunter: Yes.

Q23 Julie Hilling: But that is not included in duty time.

Dr Hunter: Correct.

Q24 Julie Hilling: It is just that handle of when you can get rest.

Dr Hunter: Yes.

Q25 Julie Hilling: Your 10-hour rest period could be a lot less by the time you have travelled in and out, eaten and whatever else.

Dr Hunter: I do not think so. I do not think that would be the case. Perhaps my colleagues might correct me on that.

Kris Major: Under the current proposal, yes. At the moment under CAP 371, if you are on such minimum rest, we have a ruling that says you must have 10 hours of hotel room availability. That means you can have something to eat, have a shower and then sleep for eight hours. This proposal does not have that in there. It just says it is a 10-hour rest, as long as there is an eight-hour period for sleep. It does not allow for that. It misses the fact of travelling to and from an airport. Some places can be three quarters of an hour to an hour both ways. CAP 371 allows for that.

Chair: I too would like to declare membership of Unite, which has already been declared in the Register.

Graham Stringer: I will do the same.

Jim Dobbin: I will do the same.

Q26 Iain Stewart: I would like to pick up on Mr Maynard’s question on the economic pressure that airlines are under in the current climate. Even with the current regulations, do you find that there is constant pressure on your members to squeeze out every last hour that exists?

Dr Hunter: Yes.

Q27 Iain Stewart: This is the context.

Dr Hunter: It was Drucker, the management guru or economist, who said that the first duty of an organisation is to survive. Airlines are icons of the low-cost business model. They are very survival-driven. It is intensely competitive. They can be facing decisions where, if they spend on safety today, they might go out of business tomorrow. Survival is a very important force. It is because of that context that it can make it quite inappropriate to deploy safety management strategies such as fatigue risk management and so on because it is in a very unsympathetic environment that these measures are being deployed.

Q28 Iain Stewart: Is that across the board for airlines or are there particularly bad offenders? Is there a category difference between low-cost fliers and national flag carriers?

Dr Hunter: It is probably across the board. As consumers, you can see this in the way that fares prices have come down. As consumers and passengers, we get a sense of the intense competitiveness in the airline industry.

Q29 Iain Stewart: I have a related but separate question. It is for my own clarification. The new proposals are for a uniform standard across Europe. Is that a minimum standard but individual countries could then have their own stricter interpretation, or do they have to abide by the absolute letter of the uniform standard?

Dr Hunter: The proposals are for a "standard", and I will explain why that has special meaning. The proposals also allow for risk management arrangements where the countries can vary from the standard if they prove a reasonable case for doing so. When we talk about a "standard", there is no expression of an absolute standard of how tired is too tired. For example, in the case of driving, how drunk is too drunk is defined. In the case of flying it is only really defined through the hourly limits. There could have been opportunities to define it in relation to how tired is too tired; there is a science to do that. That opportunity was not taken and it means that the whole arrangement can be quite woolly. Operators can say that they are safe, but it is a vague definition of safety.

Q30 Iain Stewart: To pick up on that, is the test you have referred to uncontroversial in terms of the science? With regard to alcohol in the bloodstream, it is a medical fact that once you have a certain level of alcohol in the bloodstream your ability to co-ordinate diminishes. Is this test for tiredness as robust as that, or can it be challenged?

Dr Hunter: It is similar. In the case of alcohol, a number of persons with an equal blood alcohol concentration will have a variable performance decrement. In fact, it is a little bit unfair on some but more beneficial to others. These measures of fatigue would have a similar effect. Overall, as a public safety measure, it would do a lot to secure public safety in our view, just in the way that the driving alcohol limit does.2

Q31 Graham Stringer: Dr Hunter, I take you back to what you were saying before about the technical capacity within the CAA. Could you expand on that? Is the technical capacity to assess this sufficient within the CAA? As I understand it, when EASA was set up, they transferred a number of individuals and capacity to EASA. Is that right?

Dr Hunter: My comments were in relation to the proposals, which I understand the CAA support, and my knowledge that the CAA’s scientific adviser in this regard is the author of a number of publications that would seem to oppose the arrangements in the CRD. I cannot quite understand how the CAA can be advised in a way that I anticipate from the publications of the scientists in this area and yet support this arrangement.

Q32 Graham Stringer: Are you saying it is not a capacity issue but a repression of information issue?

Dr Hunter: Or choosing not to follow advice.

Q33 Graham Stringer: Can you give us the name of that paper and the author?

Dr Hunter: I understand that Mick Spencer is the CAA’s scientific adviser in this area and he was one of the scientists who advised on the CRD. You will see his report appended to the CRD.

Q34 Chair: You can send us any further details.

Dr Hunter: Yes. There is also the Moebus Report.

Q35 Graham Stringer: I am familiar with that. What lies behind my questions is that, when this Committee looked at EASA and CAA five or six years ago, we said that EASA was not fit for purpose and we were worried about the impact on the capacity within the CAA. Do you have any view as to whether EASA is competent or fit for purpose now?

Dr Hunter: I looked at the terms of reference of the EASA 055 Group-a group that would take into account the scientific developments on fatigue. I am mindful of some of the really impressive developments that have gone on in fatigue science, especially in the medical area. When I look at the membership of the 055 Group-and we have not seen their CVs-I do not see a strong scientific presence. It would seem to me that in order to assess the science-because science is about a landscape of evidence and it is important not to cherry-pick things-you have to understand the broad message that the science is giving. It needs scientific qualification and experience to do that and I do not see that within the group. I see that in the reports that were submitted to them, but I do not see that being translated to the decisions of the group. That scientific input did not have any executive influence or seems to have had very little executive influence.

Q36 Chair: Do any other members of the panel have any different views on the scientific knowledge available to EASA and how they deal with it?

Jon Horne: I would not say that we have a different view, but I would certainly clarify that the regulations that EASA has brought in were required to reflect scientific and medical evidence. Unfortunately, EASA chose to set aside its initial scientific report from 10 of the world’s most renowned fatigue scientists-the Moebus Report-and then the three independent scientists, which I think included Mick Spencer, did not have their scientific views taken into account by the CRD. There are a variety of occasions within the document where EASA itself states, "All three scientists agree that the following measure is insufficient or is fatiguing", and EASA in the next sentence goes on to say, "And we propose a rule which breaches those requirements."

Kris Major: Just to reinforce what my colleagues have said, it is quite clear that the science has been disregarded for whatever reason on several issues that concern us deeply and are critical to flying an aeroplane. It might look like a very small part, but, for example, with multiple time zone crossings when you return home from several days away, the rest provision that was advised in the scientific reports has been cut between 25% and 50%. There is not one time zone crossing rest period that follows the scientific advice.

Q37 Jim Dobbin: We have been talking mainly about the pilots and flying crew. This is probably directed at Mr Major. Are you happy that the rest of the cabin crew are probably going to be working under the same conditions?

Kris Major: Sorry; could you repeat that?

Q38 Jim Dobbin: Are you happy that the rest of the cabin crew, other than the flight crew, are going to have some of these health and safety regulations and conditions of service applied to them as well?

Kris Major: We welcome anything that reflects our importance as a safety employer on board the aircraft. We would welcome anything that standardises that. There are areas where that has happened. However, the overall document reduces the standard that we believe is safe to militate against fatigue.

Q39 Jim Dobbin: Do you feel that there has been sufficient dialogue between yourself, representing the staff, and the report authors?

Kris Major: No. We would like to have had our position and our considerations taken into account.

Q40 Chair: Mr Major, the CAA states that "crew members must make good use of their pre-flight rest periods". What does that entail? Do you think that means the crew should take more responsibility?

Kris Major: No. I think it just highlights your responsibility to make good the rest periods that you have as well as the company’s responsibility not to roster you duties that are fatiguing. It is just a highlight. Sufficient planned notice of duties and rosters is important to us, and balancing both your recovery time and the ability to maintain what all UK Governments have advised, which is a healthy family life, is important in promoting well-being and the ability to go to work and do your job.

Q41 Chair: Is there a problem? Does this imply that the crew are not acting responsibly in rest periods?

Kris Major: No, I do not think so. It is just reiterating that, if you feel that the duties being asked of you are fatiguing, questions may be asked about what you have done within your rest period to make sure that you are sufficiently rested.

Q42 Chair: I would like to ask each of you to give me, very sharply, what you think the Minister should be doing in discussions on these proposals. What are the key things that she should be looking at?

Dr Hunter: I would like to see the Minister direct the CAA to retain CAP 371 in the UK. Even that will need a further review of its safety. I would like to ask that the CRD3 process is commenced again. If it cannot be commenced again with proper scientific input, I would ask that it is amended so that it is as good as it would have been if it were started in the first place with the proper scientific input.

Kris Major: From Unite’s perspective, all we would ask of the panel is to remember that the aim of the document is to prevent fatigue in a potentially instantaneous lethal environment. All other concerns have no place in influencing the scheme.

Jon Horne: From the position of the ECA, we feel that harmonisation across Europe could be a very good thing as long as it ensures that safety standards are brought up to a safe and high level, as you have in the UK at present, and not dragging every EU member state down to the lowest levels in the European Union. I would very much hope that the Minister would be willing to ensure that her officials require EASA to apply the science that it already has to these proposals in revising them so that they are based on science and not economic or other considerations where safety is at stake.

Furthermore, I would ask that the Minister pushes for the UK to be able to keep its already high standard. That would be of value to many other EU member states that would like to do the same thing. The UK has disproportionate influence in this area as it is the father of flight time limitation schemes. I am quite confident that, if the Minister were to ensure that her officials push for this principle called non-regression whereby member states can keep their high standards, and also require the science to be incorporated in the minimum rules, then it would probably be very successful.

Q43 Julian Sturdy: Apologies for arriving slightly late. If this has already been touched on I do apologise, but I want to ask about calibration pilots. I do not know if that has been talked about at all. I am talking about pilots who are flying significantly more approaches into airports, and the calibration that is taken from that is put into the flight system for controlled landings on normal aircraft. My concern here is whether any consideration has been given to calibration pilots, who are flying a lot more landings and take-offs. That is the more stressful part of the flying and will put more stress on the individual pilot. There is significant responsibility with those pilots because the calibration landings that are put in place are used by other aircraft in future. Has there been any specific consideration given to them within the proposals?

Dr Hunter: Not that I am aware of. If I understand you correctly, these are the pilots that are part of the verification of the accuracy of the approaches to airports.

Julian Sturdy: That is correct; yes.

Dr Hunter: The issue with the landing of an aeroplane is where a lot of the risk is piled up, of course. Unfortunately, it is also at the place where the pilots are most tired because it will always be at the end of the flight. Our consideration has only been in so far as landings are a particular issue and they are very fatigue-critical.

Q44 Julian Sturdy: My point is that the information gleaned from the calibration pilots is put into the system, and it is very important that they are at their peak when they are making these approaches and landings so that the system is correct. It is not just their plane that potentially is at risk; it is other planes that rely on the information that is taken from their landings. Am I correct on that?

Dr Hunter: You are correct. However, to date, our consideration of where the greatest risk lies is with the way that fatigue increases. It is nearly all categories of human error as well as the risk of involuntary sleep in normal operations. Where any instrument approach is accurately set up, where there has not been a calibration error, we would see the potential for fatigue to cause mischief with that normal operation as being the greater issue.

Q45 Julian Sturdy: The calibration pilots have not been singled out at all or anything like that.

Dr Hunter: No.

Q46 Julian Sturdy: They would be under the same system basically. That is what I am saying.

Jon Horne: I do not think calibration pilots would be covered by this regulation. It would be classed as aerial work and this is for commercial air transport. Calibration pilots would not be part of an airline operation. They are a technical role to ensure that instrument approach systems work okay. They are not really related to this particular regulation and what it covers.

Q47 Julian Sturdy: Is that a definite?

Jon Horne: Certainly, calibration pilots are not part of a commercial airline operation. They are a function that is carried out for the airport to ensure that its instruments are accurate.

Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for coming and answering questions.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Captain Tim Price, British Airways, David O’Brien, Director of Flight and Ground Operations for Ryanair, European Low Fares Airline Association, and David Lawrence, Head of Crew Planning, Thomson Airways, gave evidence.

Q48 Chair: Good morning, gentlemen. Welcome to the Transport Select Committee. Could you please give us your name and organisation to help our records?

Captain Price: Good morning. I am Captain Tim Price from British Airways. I am the Regulations Manager in the Flight Operations Department. I am also an active pilot.

David O’Brien: I am David O’Brien representing the European Low Fares Airline Association. I am Director of Flight and Ground Operations with Ryanair.

David Lawrence: I am David Lawrence, Head of Crew Planning at Thomson Airways, which is part of the TUI Travel Group.

Q49 Chair: Thank you. Are those airlines supporting EASA’s current proposals putting profits before safety?

Captain Price: No, they are not. I was interested in some of the comments in the previous session about safety. In my understanding there are only two entities responsible for safety in law. One of those is the operator. Usually that is personified in the chief executive; that is for policies and procedures. On the day, the commander of the aeroplane is responsible for the tactical safety. Whatever discussions we are having, ultimately, safety is the responsibility of the operator and then the captain.

Q50 Chair: Yes, but this particular inquiry is to do with setting standards and permissible limits. Are those airlines that are supporting the change looking at their own economic interests rather than safety of the passengers?

Captain Price: I may not speak for other airlines, but certainly that is not the case in British Airways.

Q51 Chair: Mr O’Brien, you take a slightly different view from most of the other airlines, don’t you?

David O’Brien: I take a different view from some other airlines. The European Low Fares Airline Association, and indeed the other airline associations in general, do not support EASA’s proposed changes to the existing standards. There is a misconception that needs to be corrected. The UK operates under CAP 371, some might argue in breach of article 8 of the implementing regulation, but we will park that. Nobody actually believes that CAP 371 is unsafe. Out there in Europe there is a standard set of procedures called Subpart Q. I find myself agreeing with the union contributions to say that EASA has ignored scientific evidence in putting forward some of the changes that it has put forward. Curiously though, the evidence that EASA has ignored from the likes of Mick Spencer, the CAA scientist, bring EASA’s procedures closer to the less helpful elements of CAP 371.

CAP 371 is flawed. It is good but it is flawed. Before everybody pats themselves on the back as to how wonderful UK aviation is, the rate of accidents within UK aviation is not remarkably dissimilar on a pro rata basis to that across the rest of Europe. There is a standard safe system. Unfortunately EASA has indeed ignored scientific evidence and regrettably-and again I agree with the unions on this-constituted the rule-making committee incorrectly by turning it into, effectively, an industrial relations bunfight rather than listening to the evidence. You will find that ELFAA has submitted documents early in the process to EASA saying, "We recommend that scientists are included in the group."

My own airline, Ryanair, has operated Subpart Q since 2002 and we have operated over 2,000,000 flights under it. I will not dwell on it, but I could refer you to the document I submitted. You will find that our UK pilots, who had previously operated under CAP 371, prefer the working arrangements available under Subpart Q.

This is not a question about profit before safety or anything of the sort. Safety is absolutely necessary as a business essential. Particularly at our end of the market, where people will wait 100 years to say, "I told you so" if something happens, it is even more crucial to us.

Q52 Chair: We are told that some pilots do not feel able to report fatigue. Mr Lawrence, could you comment on that? Why do you think that might be?

David Lawrence: Yes, I could comment. Clearly, any kind of safety management system or fatigue system does rely on a just and open culture where people feel able to report fatigue. Certainly in the case of Thomson Airways, we put a huge amount of effort into that. In the regular yearly training that we give to crew, for the last two years we have given fatigue training, which has been very open and encourages people to report fatigue. We regularly get fatigue reports. For example, last year 400 crew members reported fatigue issues to us, which we used to improve our internal systems and processes.

Q53 Chair: Are there any other views? Captain Price, what about dealing with fatigue? Why do pilots feel that they cannot report it? Do they feel very vulnerable?

Captain Price: No; that is not the case. There are three elements to effective fatigue management. FTL regulations are only a part of an operator’s safety management system. Those three elements are: operator accountability; a just culture such that, exactly as you say, people can report if they are fatigued; and effective management of the issue. In the case of British Airways, of course people are able to report if they are fatigued.

May I say that there is a difference between fatigue and tiredness? Clearly, we can all be tired if we have missed a night’s sleep. Fatigue is the cumulative effect of a series of duties affecting people’s ability to recover from tiredness. They are different issues. If people report they are fatigued, then our process is to tend to refer people to occupational health specialists to help assess why that is the case, but it is certainly not punitive.

Q54 Iain Stewart: One of our previous witnesses made the point that there is a test available for fatigue, in the same way that there is a test for alcohol in the bloodstream, and that test has not been assessed properly in the new regulations. I would be grateful for your perspective on that point.

David O’Brien: I am not familiar with the specific test that you are talking about. Reference was made to what is called the CAA SAFE Model, which, curiously, when presented at the EASA meetings, demonstrated that consecutive earlies were actually a good thing rather than a bad thing. That is also what Mick Spencer, the scientist, confirmed. None the less, EASA has seen fit to move to the UK model of penalising consecutive earlies. Where the test has been applied-and the only test I am aware of is the SAFE test-it demonstrates that EASA has made a mistake by moving closer to the UK system.

I am curious as to the pilots’ contribution to these tests because these pilot organisations are the same organisations that oppose random drug and drink testing. They oppose random drug and drink testing, the effects of which are absolutely manifest and clear, and instead seem to support and invoke a different test-which, by the way, we would support too if it exists; don’t get me wrong.

David Lawrence: I am not aware that there is a precise test for fatigue. As David said, there is the SAFE model, which is a way of scientifically or theoretically evaluating fatigue. It is a model that we use at Thomson Airways at times when people have reported fatigue. I would say that 99% of the time it shows on that model that we are within acceptable bounds of fatigue. It is not a precise science. It is one piece of evidence that we use. It is not a yes/no: you are fatigued or you are not. It is not that exact or precise. It is just one additional piece of information that can be used.

Q55 Chair: Can that be correct? If fatigue is not exact or precise, how can we assess whether the introduction of different standards is in the public’s interest and is about safety?

David Lawrence: One of the key issues with fatigue is that we are all different as individuals. It is very hard to have a model that would describe all of us in every instance. That is why these hard limits are one part of how we manage fatigue, but they are not the only part of it. That is why fatigue risk management is important. That is why feedback from individual crew members is important. There are many other ways we also manage fatigue on a day-to-day basis. It is not just about hard limits or rules that come out. They are one important part of it but only one part of it.

Captain Price: I am aware that Qantas, the Australian carrier, modelled their rosters using a software model. I don’t know what the model is. That will flag up if there are areas of concern at report, but it only takes into account the flying element-in other words, what time the companies control. It does not take into account what the pilots are doing in their own time.

Q56 Chair: The CAA says that the proposals will require "a considerable amount of change management oversight". What do you understand that to mean? What would you be able to do?

Captain Price: It is hard to assess that without knowing the scope of the change, if you pardon me for stating the obvious. Hopefully it won’t be overnight. I understand that we are going to have at least two years to change from when the rules are published. It will be necessary to assess the difference from the current set of operations. Clearly, everything we do depends upon how we roster the crews, the aeroplanes and so on. The whole schedule depends on that. It would be necessary to assess the scope of the change and the rules and react accordingly.

From my point of view-I don’t want to put words into David’s mouth, although I think it is probably a slightly different inference-it would seem like evolution, not revolution.

Q57 Chair: Mr O’Brien, what do you think that means and do you think it can be done?

David O’Brien: Very little, in fact. The main changes and effect, such as they occur- and again I draw your attention to the letter from Ryanair UK-based pilots on the subject-will be on pilot rosters in that they will become less desirable. I will give you one very specific example, if I may, of the natural effect of rostering. If you take the UK rule regarding consecutive earlies, which discourages consecutive earlies, that leads people for the first three days on earlies into a middle and on to a late. That may sound fine in theory, but it turns out not to be very convenient for individuals and not very sensible. On the fourth day you are still going to wake up at 6.00 in the morning, having educated yourself in that way for the previous three days, and you have to wait until your duty occurs much later.

If airlines are forced into contorting themselves to meet new rules, then contort themselves they must do. In the case of the organisation I work for and those organisations I represent, I can see it as having unhappy, unintended consequences for the pilots themselves, with no safety benefit. I draw your attention to Mick Spencer’s comments on consecutive early starts. He says they do not show fatigue increasing; in fact, fatigue decreased. I agree with the unions here on this subject. EASA, simply because it had allowed itself to become engaged in an industrial relations activity, threw science out of the window.

What we have at the moment is Subpart Q with some gaps, which I agree should be filled, but not many. It has been the work of the European Parliament, and Brian Simpson MEP in particular, for about 17 years. Suddenly it is reopened on a non-scientific basis after two months of operation generally across Europe.

Q58 Chair: Why do you think this has happened?

David O’Brien: I think there is naivety within EASA. I think that EASA, as a European institution, falls prey to many of those European institutional foibles, which is that the social element precedes all other elements and it is seen as horse trading in the social sense from a platform of knowing that pretty much all of the existing European flight time limitation systems are in fact safe. You can have esoteric debates beyond that and satisfy social imperatives as they see it.

Q59 Chair: But there is some support for the change, isn’t there? We have received evidence in support.

David O’Brien: In general there is support for the change, mostly because, as I have said, it is relatively meaningless. Remember the change that I am talking about is not from CAP 371, which our pilots and scientists believe to be flawed. The change is from Subpart Q, as it is, coming closer to CAP 371. We see that as flawed.

Q60 Graham Stringer: I have been listening carefully to your statements. Can you give us a pecking order for CAP 371, Subpart Q and the proposed regulations?

David O’Brien: Subpart Q

Q61 Graham Stringer: Which is the safest or least safe?

David O’Brien: I think they are all safe and they are all packages as well. It is a bit like issuing medication. If you increase this and increase that, you may well change the effect of the entire medication. There are a series of balances within each system. I am not for a moment going to say that CAP 371 is unsafe or that any of these are unsafe. I am simply saying there are consequences.

Q62 Graham Stringer: You were saying previously that the new regulations have walked away from the scientific evidence base, as CAP 371 did in certain instances. Are you saying that after all that discussion there is no difference between these three systems in terms of the likelihood of accidents?

David O’Brien: Yes; I am saying that. I am saying that it degenerated into a social bunfight. The basis for me saying that is you have Brian Simpson-

Q63 Chair: What is a "social bunfight"?

David O’Brien: A social bunfight is where people are horse trading working conditions rather than talking about safety, where discussions involve whether or not a pilot might be so tired after his work that he might crash his car on the way home. The difference between a pilot crashing his car on the way home and a factory worker crashing his car on the way home is no different, I think, except I suspect that the car might be a bigger car in the case of a pilot. That is what I mean by the social element.

Coming back to the point you make, Subpart Q as it exists now is the product of 17 years’ work, as it turns out by a British MEP. We believe it to have been reasonable work. It came into being in 2008. However, my company, Ryanair, took Subpart Q as the operating model from 2002 following consultation with the CAA and accepting scientific observations from the world’s leading scientist at the time on the subject, Dr Mark Rosekind, who is now on the NTSB in the United States, the former Head of the Safety Regulation Group in the CAA, Mr Michael Willett, and Dieter Horst, who is the head of the German LBA, the safety authority. We did this with no knowledge and no sense that there was about to be, 10 years later, a quasi-political, quasi-social discussion about these regulations. We did it because it was the right thing to do. All of these independent experts said that it was a good system.

In 2008 the system comes in, and then EASA naively, instead of doing what they were asked to do, which was to carry out a scientific study and to fill in five specific pretty non-controversial points within Subpart Q, opened the whole thing up to a silly debate.

Q64 Chair: Would each of you tell us briefly what you think the Minister should be doing now in the discussions on these proposals in Europe? Captain Price, what should the Minister be doing?

Captain Price: The key to effective implementation of the flight time limitations regulations across Europe will be standardisation, certainly in a couple of years when EASA moves to more or less a standardisation body rather than a regulatory body. The Minister should be insisting on standardisation of implementation across Europe. We are broadly supportive of the proposal as an evolution from CAP 371. Standardisation will be the key.

Q65 Chair: Mr O’Brien, what is the most important thing the Minister should be doing?

David O’Brien: I would refer the Minister to page 4 of the ELFAA submission, which is the joint position paper of all the airline associations. It is that EASA is a safety regulator and not a social mediator. FTLs are an established safety system and not a social tool. I would make the point that EU-OPS Subpart Q in its current form, complete with all existing definitions, limits and delegated national variants, is and must remain available to all European airlines as an acceptable FTL system.

Q66 Chair: Mr Lawrence, what should the Minister be doing?

David Lawrence: As part of the TUI Group, where we have seven different airlines across Europe and quite a few operating under Subpart Q, we are supportive of having a standardisation of flight time limitations across Europe. I am broadly supportive of the proposal that is being put forward by EASA, although I would also point out that there are some areas in there that are more restrictive than CAP 371 at the moment. We have put those into our written submission. We would still challenge why, when we have such an excellent track record within the UK, we are becoming more restrictive in certain areas, such as duties starting in late afternoons. They are more restrictive under the proposal than they are in CAP 371. There are some examples in there.

Captain Price: Mr Sturdy, in relation to your question about calibration pilots, they would normally fly approaches coupled to the autopilot, with automatic data recording down the back. So the pilots would not be hand-flying them.

Q67 Julian Sturdy: What you are saying is that the stress that they would incur would be no different from a normal pilot.

Captain Price: The point you made about the number of take-offs and landings is correct, but they would not actually be hand-flying the approach, generally speaking. That is just as a clarification.

Chair: Thank you very much.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Andrew Haines, Chief Executive, Civil Aviation Authority, Kathryn Jones, Manager Flight Operations Policy, Civil Aviation Authority, and Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Minister of State, Department for Transport, gave evidence.

Q68 Chair: Good morning and welcome to the Transport Select Committee. We do expect the Minister to be joining us. We will make a start and hopefully she will arrive shortly. Would you identify yourselves for the record?

Andrew Haines: My name is Andrew Haines. I am the Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Kathryn Jones: I am Kathryn Jones. I am a Manager within the Flight Ops Policy Department and responsible for flight time limitations.

Q69 Chair: The UK has a good aviation safety record. Why then does the CAA want to support changes to the regulations that must help to reduce that good safety record?

Andrew Haines: There are two quite distinct reasons. The first is that EASA has been set up and has been given a very clear remit by the European Commission to harmonise safety standards across Europe. We believe that there are benefits for UK citizens, a very significant minority of whom fly with non-UK airlines. We get many non-UK airlines flying into this country. Harmonisation is a potential safety benefit for UK citizens.

The second thing is that, unlike the FAA in America, which has not changed its rules since 1957, the CAA has progressively reviewed and revised flight time limitations provisions about every 10 years. They were last reissued in 2004, so we would in any case be reviewing them at this stage. As we have already heard from various witnesses, that is because there is no exact science that gives a definitive answer to fatigue. It is important that you keep on top of emerging research, medical evidence, practical experience and investigations and tests on limitations. So it is for that combined reason.

There are many things I would like to correct from the previous sessions but there is one in particular. The CAA has no economic duty towards airlines. There is no conflict in terms of our oversight between safety and economics with airlines. We economically regulate three airports in this country but we have no economic duty to airlines. The idea that our stand in this issue is for anything other than the safety of UK citizens is simply without any foundation whatsoever.

Q70 Chair: What has driven this proposal for change?

Andrew Haines: The proposal has been driven by the need for harmonisation, very clearly, and the fact that all the time there is emerging information. For example, evidence has already been given that, with low cost airlines, there is now good evidence to suggest that consecutive earlies do not have the same detrimental effect that has been previously identified and, actually, there is some benefit because it avoids the disruptive pattern that Mr O’Brien mentioned. Whereas in CAP 371 the current flight time limitations in the UK would require a degree of disruption in the shift, in future, under the EASA proposition, you can have more consecutive earlies but then you are required to have an extended rest period at the end of those.

Q71 Chair: How can harmonisation downwards create a safer system?

Andrew Haines: I don’t believe that this is a harmonisation downwards. If it was a harmonisation downwards, the UK CAA would not be supporting it and we would not be advising Ministers to support it either.

Q72 Mr Leech: Following on from that, why is it not a harmonisation downwards? Everyone else that we have heard from seems to believe that it is. Why is it that the CAA has a different view?

Andrew Haines: I do not think you heard from the airlines that it was a harmonisation downwards. It is a package of measures. In some areas it is less restrictive than CAP 371. In other areas it is explicitly more restrictive. As well as that, it has a very clear overarching responsibility on operators to provide information and to have a proper risk assessment methodology for managing fatigue. That is the way that safety management has been going across the world for the last 20 years, and not just in aviation. People have learned from repeated accidents that simply relying on compliance with rules has not been sufficient. You need to have a risk management system as well that requires people to say, "Are these rules having the desired effect they were intended to have?" The new EASA proposition covers that in a way that the existing UK regulations do not do.

Q73 Mr Leech: We have heard from BALPA about their survey of pilots, where 31% of pilots were saying that they had woken up to find out that their co-pilot was asleep at the same time. Do you seriously think that these proposed changes will improve that situation?

Andrew Haines: I am concerned by the findings. I am concerned because they have happened within the existing regime for a start. The findings do not identify the difference between tiredness and fatigue. We do not know if that is the case because the pilot has been up all night because of a sick child or because he did not take enough rest beforehand. There is nothing in that survey that identifies that what the pilots have experienced is to do with fatigue in either the roster or the pattern of work they do. I am also concerned because they are not reporting that through all the channels. There are confidential reporting lines at the moment. There is something called CHIRP, which is entirely distinct from either the CAA or the employer for people to report to. They get very few reports.

Q74 Mr Leech: But the evidence that they have provided suggests that there are faults with the current system. Are you suggesting that these changes will result in a reduction in the number of pilots who are waking up and finding out that their co-pilot is asleep?

Andrew Haines: First of all, I cannot accept that it produces evidence that the current system is not working. As I said, it does not distinguish between tiredness and fatigue, and that is very important.

Q75 Chair: I would have thought that a pilot falling asleep is bad, whether you call it tiredness or fatigue.

Andrew Haines: I completely agree with that, but that is not to say that that is a fault of the existing system. You can have a perfect system, and if the pilot chooses not to go to bed for 24 hours beforehand he could fall asleep. There is no rule that will govern pilot behaviour before he turns up to work. I am not suggesting it is not concerning; I am simply saying it is not evidence of a failure in the system.

Q76 Mr Leech: But my question was whether or not you thought that the proposed new system would improve on those worrying statistics.

Andrew Haines: It gives us more tools to oversee it and manage it. It gives the CAA better access to data. It requires the industry to monitor it and so we will be able to take appropriate action.

Q77 Mr Leech: With respect, that was not the question. It may well be that under the new system you are able to monitor it better, but do you believe that the proposed changes will result in less pilots waking up and finding out that their colleague is asleep?

Andrew Haines: It is quite finely balanced. I do not believe it will result in a deterioration. I do not believe that what is proposed by EASA is a deterioration in the UK’s standards.

Q78 Paul Maynard: When EASA first brought out its proposals, the CAA had a number of concerns that it expressed to EASA. We then had a subsequent reissue of the proposals in January, which, from your evidence, you appear to be supporting. What is not clear is how the proposals have specifically changed so that you now feel the level of safety is appropriate, whereas it was not before. Can you explain some of the finer detail of why you are now happy and you were not before?

Andrew Haines: I will kick off and then maybe pass to Ms Jones as well. There are three areas. First of all, there is the maximum duty period during a disruptive period. EASA was proposing 12 hours. The science referred to 10 hours. EASA have now settled on 11 hours. Under CAP 371, our existing arrangements allowed for up to 11 hours 15 minutes in any case. We have concluded with a further study that we have been doing with Loughborough University and an existing operator that 11 hours is a safe limit. We would not have been happy with 12 hours. We are happy with the revised proposition of 11 hours.

The second issue was that there was no cap on the number of hours worked within 14 days. There was one for seven days and 28 days but not for 14 days. EASA has now produced a cap. It is a higher cap than we have currently, but it is a cap that we believe is acceptable because it is supported by extended recovery periods. That was the third element in the package as well. We believe that EASA has moved on each of those three areas sufficient for us to be content with the proposition.

Kathryn Jones: To support that, we have been doing some research, as was said, with Loughborough University and a large operator looking at long single sectors. That was supported by the flight crew as well. While it is still an ongoing piece of research, the preliminary findings support 11 hours as the outer limit for a planned duty.

The issue with the proposals as well was that, again, there were no methods of managing recovery time. Duties between midnight and seven in the morning are known to be disruptive. The more irregular work you do within that time creates more fatigue because of the level of disruption to the human body clock. By adding the 60 hours off, after operating not consecutively but four or more of those duties, within a work block provides that opportunity for greater recovery. The addition of two two day-off periods within the regulations as further recovery also makes sure that the balance is achieved by not having those hard limits. The prescriptive hard limits can create fatigue in themselves.

The new regulations now give us more oversight responsibilities. There is a requirement for an operator to develop a non-punitive discretionary fatigue reporting system and have it in their operations manual, which is subject to our oversight. With those elements and also, again, the use of discretion, it comes to us after an hour under the new regulations. Under our current regulations it comes to us under two hours. Under the current regulations with the UK, cabin crew rest is 11 hours; flight deck rest is 12 hours. Under the EASA proposals, cabin crew will get the same amount of rest as the flight crew. The addition of the extra hour for cabin crew is now being managed within EASA regulations.

As a whole package there are some issues where there may be seen to be some increases such as early mornings, but in terms of circadian rhythm and time awake that would be the better time to do more work, and restrictions in the afternoon where the research shows, and we support, that you should not be able to do as much in the afternoon. As a total package we believe that what is being currently proposed meets our requirements.

Q79 Paul Maynard: Just to be clear, although it is less restrictive in certain elements, the current proposals represent more up-to-date scientific evidence than when CAP 371 was put together. Would you also agree therefore that understanding the fatigue and the scientific evidence base has improved since CAP 371?

Kathryn Jones: It has improved since CAP 371. Some significant research was done in 2002 and 2003 with the Flight Safety Foundation in the US looking at how we solve the problem of flying sectors of 20 hours. We have managed that by looking at fatigue risk management and operator responsibilities. That new approach of making people responsible and training people about fatigue awareness has now become a key in global fatigue management. It is an essential element that those operator responsibilities that are now in EASA Ops, and the safety management system requirements that are coming in this year with the rest of the EASA regulations, now actively manage that and place that responsibility.

Under CAP 371, our current regulations, the only responsibility was for compliance. We very much support a performance-based measure that operators have to demonstrate how they manage the work and how they manage putting that together.

Q80 Iain Stewart: I would be grateful if you could give me your perspective on an issue that both our previous panels of witnesses have raised. The witness from BALPA suggested that there was a test that could be applied to identify fatigue in a pilot, in the same way that a test can be done to measure alcohol in the bloodstream, and that that evidence should inform the new regulatory process. That was disputed by the following panel of witnesses, who said that such a test is not well established and it could not influence it. What is your perspective?

Andrew Haines: There is no simple test. There is a range of scientific opinion. The CAA has worked with QinetiQ for something like 10 years now on a model called SAFE, which effectively evaluates different fatigue patterns. That is one way of evaluating predictors of the likely outcome of certain roster patterns. As part of that, the CAA asked to see whether or not you could do a comparison with blood alcohol limits, for example. That was done. It demonstrated that you could not make a comparison because the blood alcohol limits were done in laboratory conditions and the effects of blood alcohol on behaviour were very different from those of fatigue. The scientist who has been referred to several times, Mick Spencer, and whose advice we have been accused of disregarding, said it would be a "gross misuse" of that index to make a comparison between blood alcohol index and fatigue. He was very clear and unequivocal about the fact that you cannot correlate between blood alcohol index and fatigue.

If we could get definitive science on this, it would be much more of a science and less of an art. The reality is that, over time, rules have been built up using medical research, scientific advice and operator experience in test conditions because there is no absolute science. If there was, then we would be very keen to embrace it. I think EASA would be prepared to consider it in due course as part of an ongoing process, but it is not there at the moment. It is a nirvana that simply is not an option available to EASA or any other safety authority in the world.

Q81 Graham Stringer: I would like to ask you the same question that I asked the previous panel. We are having a lot of debate and discussion about three different systems. Are there any differences in safety?

Andrew Haines: In the UK we took a view that Subpart Q had some deficiencies and it was not as robust as CAP 371, which is why we stayed with it when we had the option in 2008 to move to it. We believe that the EASA proposals as now amended mean that they will give a broadly equivalent level of safety to our existing arrangements. We think there is nothing really to choose between them. That is why my answer to Mr Leech may have sounded a little bit equivocal. They are very similar systems as a package. There are pluses and minuses, but, on balance, we believe the evidence is that it will be very broadly similar.

Q82 Graham Stringer: To be clear, you are saying that CAP 371 and the proposed system are better than the Subpart Q system.

Andrew Haines: We believe they have better protection.

Q83 Graham Stringer: When I say "better", I mean safer.

Andrew Haines: Yes. We believe that there are some risks in Subpart Q, such as, for example, the disruptive period of 11.45 hours. It is lower in this proposition.

Q84 Chair: Minister, I welcome you. We are pleased to see you back.

Mrs Villiers: First, apologies for the mix-up about timing this morning.

Chair: Yes, there was some confusion.

Mrs Villiers: Many thanks also for postponing this session for a couple of weeks because I was unable to make the last one. I would be very pleased to jump in here. One of the areas where it is very clear to me that the package proposed by EASA would be better for passengers travelling in the UK is when they are travelling on airlines that are not currently regulated by CAP 371 but are regulated in other countries that have lower levels of safety. We do not know as yet what the end result of the process will be, but the package of proposals for EASA, if it goes ahead, will undoubtedly bring up the standards in a number of European countries, as Andrew has said, to a broadly equivalent level of the package that is now contained in the UK regulations. I think that will be a significant safety gain for UK passengers when they get on planes, as many of them do, that are regulated by the European countries.

Q85 Graham Stringer: The reverse of that policy is that, if there is a levelling up throughout Europe, does it imply a levelling down of UK standards?

Mrs Villiers: I do not believe so. Clearly, the CAA is the expert in this matter. I am happy with its conclusion that, when you look at the packages as a whole, there is, overall, a broadly equivalent level of protection, and the EASA proposals, as they currently are, would not lead to a deterioration of safety as compared to CAP 371.

Q86 Graham Stringer: I quote to you what BALPA say in their evidence. They say that pilots could be landing their aircraft having been awake for 22 hours. Is it true? Does it happen under the current systems? Is that a deterioration in the regulations?

Andrew Haines: It is strictly true on an interpretation. It would be an exceptionally rare event. It would require quite a perverse combination of circumstances. It could technically happen today with split turns. The rule effectively caps the maximum length of a turn at 13 hours. Scientists, interestingly, said it could be 14 hours. EASA said 13 hours, but twice a week you could extend it to 14 hours. It assumes that the commander of the aeroplane believes that he can continue for two more in a disruptive circumstance; and it assumes that that person has been brought in four hours early for the limited amount of turns that they can be brought in for standby. It also assumes that it took them 90 minutes to drive to work. That set of circumstances or broadly parallel could happen today, but they very rarely do. The critical part is that the last two hours of that is the commander saying, "Do I believe it is safe to carry out this duty on behalf of myself and my passengers?" He has absolute control over that element. That is a critical component.

Q87 Graham Stringer: I do not want to interrupt, but are you saying there is no difference in the possibility of having 22 hours and landing an aircraft between the current system and the previous system?

Andrew Haines: The circumstances might be slightly different, but it is technically possible now for that to have happened in those sorts of circumstances with a split shift. I am looking to Kathryn because she is the expert. We think EASA’s intention is that it is not possible in future, but, because of a drafting error in the current draft, it has one hour more. We think EASA’s intention is 21 hours. It is a very hypothetical scenario. It is not the sort of thing we would expect to happen. If it was happening with any regularity, we would have entitlement under the new system to intervene and say, "Whoa." We have no such entitlement at present. We would have to have that reported because commanders’ use of discretion must be reported to the CAA under the new system. That is not there currently. We would have much greater visibility. If anything, that is an area where we will be safer going forward than we currently are.

Kathryn Jones: As I said before, the requirement will now be that the company has a non-punitive reporting system that is part of the manual and therefore will be part of our approval. The concern about the commander being able to use two hours of discretion post an operator-extended flight, in actual fact, appears to be at odds with the information that I have given to national authorities. The EASA regulations state it should be the basic regulation. That is 13 hours plus two hours. I will be challenging EASA that this is a drafting error in its proposal because it is not supported by any conversation that we had in the rule-making group, nor is it supported by the information that was sent to national authorities. With that element I will go back, but we believe that that would not be possible. With regard to the situation there of that long period of rest, they would have had accommodation to rest in. They would not have been sitting in the crew room or busy environment. They would have had a quiet room to rest in, the same as we do with split duty now, and achieve similar results.

Q88 Graham Stringer: The low cost airlines basically said that part of the final recommendations on the new rules is due to a horse trade with the trade unions, effectively, and not to do with the best scientific advice available on safety regulations. Do you agree with that? Can these regulations be further improved?

Andrew Haines: I would not want to comment on whether or not they were a horse trade. The reality was that the group consisted of five national experts, of whom Kathryn was one, and she attended 20 plus meetings, five airline representatives and five representatives of trade union associations. It was a balanced group. That reflected the sort of characteristics we would have historically done within the CAA to get a mix of views and opinions.

Where Mr O’Brien was referring to EASA contradicting with the scientists, that is not my understanding at all. The scientists support an extension of the number of consecutive early duties, but they have also supported an extended recovery at the end of that. The scientists have supported the EASA recommendation in both elements.

Q89 Chair: Minister, is it not of concern to you that the UK would not be able to have higher standards if it wants to? Why can we not take the EU standards as a minimum standard, looking at safety levels, and the UK could be permitted to have higher standards if it wishes to, as indeed it does now? What is wrong with that concept? Are you arguing the UK’s corner in this respect?

Mrs Villiers: It was the previous Government that opted to go forward with this approach to the creation of EASA and the push for harmonisation.

Q90 Chair: It did, but now we are discussing what happens next. Have you taken up the cudgels for the UK to argue the case that we can have higher standards if we want to?

Mrs Villiers: There is a case for seeking consensus on high standards right across the European Union. As I mentioned in my remarks before, one of the potential benefits of this whole process is that others bring their standards up to meet the very high standards that are implied by CAP 371. The key thing is to make sure that we have a safe outcome for UK passengers. Whether that is a topped-up one or a uniform one across the EU is not the issue. The issue is ensuring that we maintain the highest standards in the UK.

Q91 Chair: Are you confident that we do, because it looks as if our standards will be reduced? It might be that the standards of other countries are increased, but it looks as if our high standards will be reduced. Does that not concern you?

Mrs Villiers: As I said, I think the CAA is right to conclude, after some very careful assessment, that the package on offer from EASA is broadly equivalent to the package that we currently use in this country.

Q92 Chair: Is this a question that you have put to the CAA? There does seem to be some dispute about the scientific or other evidence on which EASA’s proposals are based. We have received conflicting evidence. We have heard conflicting statements this morning. Is this an area that you have pursued as a Minister? Are you concerned about this?

Mrs Villiers: Certainly, I have followed this issue very carefully. The DfT has worked very closely with CAA, which has been taking the lead on this so far because it has the expertise. It is never going to be possible to get complete scientific consensus on an issue like this. It is never going to be possible to get complete consensus across airlines and unions. After a detailed process, which has involved the unions, the airlines and the regulators of the member states, we have got to a position where the concerns that we had with EASA’s initial approach have largely been dealt with. We are convinced that, if this package goes ahead, it will not lead to a deterioration in safety for UK passengers.

Q93 Chair: Have you accepted what the CAA has said to you without questioning it?

Mrs Villiers: Of course we have worked with the CAA and questioned it. I think it has come to a correct conclusion in the way it has assessed the EASA proposals.

Q94 Chair: The Danish Transport Minister is pressing for changes. Why is that a different situation?

Mrs Villiers: Perhaps the Danish Minister was commenting on previous iterations of the proposals. We asked for changes to those and those changes have been made, as we have heard. In the Comitology Committee we will clearly be listening to the views of other member states. The initial discussions indicate that it is not likely that the other member states will be looking for very major changes, but we have an open mind if they want to press down some of the limits. We do not rule that out completely, though we will have to bear in mind the usual careful assessment that needs to be made in terms of the proportionality of any changes to be made to the proposals.

Q95 Chair: I would like to pursue this issue of the evidence on which the proposals are based and the different views of it. There are three reports from scientists published with the revised proposals. How are they different from the assessment of the evidence by the Moebus Committee? What is the difference and how would people like ourselves, whose prime concern is public safety, make an assessment of these different sorts of evidence?

Kathryn Jones: The Moebus Report and the scientists were asked a set number of questions. The Moebus Report was asked to do an evaluation of scientific research and to form a basis of opinion by which EASA would then move on with their rule-making task. There is no scientific research in areas within aviation such as standby and split duty. There were many areas that the scientists were unable to deal with because they were asked to evaluate the available research. What EASA then chose to do was to take that piece of evaluation that Moebus gave and use that as one of the documents that they used with their rule-making group. Again, this is the way that we in the UK would develop the rule making, by having a multi-stakeholder group, and then by asking the three scientists to come back and evaluate the proposals that they had then assessed using the Moebus Report or the other different science and the information on operational best practice, which was also part of EASA’s remit to evaluate. They were then asked to evaluate those current provisions. They stated that 12 hours was too much at night and we agreed with them on that.

Where they had real science that had been done in the operational environment, they were able to give some robust views. Where no science in that operational environment had been conducted, they gave their advice in those areas. That advice was taken with that of operational experience and best practice throughout all the member states. Much of it closely follows in those missing areas the regulations that we have and that the rest of Europe have in terms of standby, airport standby and home standby, split duty and that sort of thing.

The evaluation was done, but when you are covering so many different market sectors-measuring a long haul against a multi-sector short haul operation-you have to assess it and bring it together for the best generic rule set, which is why it is so essential that those regulations also include those operator responsibilities. It is not only the duty length that is an issue; it is how the duties are put together. Those regulations now require the operators to demonstrate that. Our rules do not do that. That is a significant benefit and we now have the authority to go in and require the operator to demonstrate that to us. We see that as a significant gain.

Q96 Chair: This is complex and we have heard very differing views on what all of this means. Our prime concern must be safety. Mr Haines, you said that the CAA’s objections had been largely met. Which areas have not been met?

Andrew Haines: They have been met. They were not met exactly in the way that we originally intended.

Q97 Chair: Are you saying they have been wholly met, because there was a statement that they had been mainly met?

Andrew Haines: They have been wholly met but not in the way we originally intended.

Q98 Chair: Does that mean there is no further change that you are seeking?

Andrew Haines: There are some points of clarification. It is use of detail that we are seeking. We also need to bear in mind that, on the back of representations, EASA may choose to make further variations. We need to keep on top of this. This is not yet definitive.

Q99 Chair: But you, as the CAA, the regulator here, are not seeking any further changes?

Andrew Haines: Not material changes. We are seeking clarification on wording and drafting issues, but we are now content that the substantive conditions are a safe system of work. They are broadly equivalent to the existing mechanism. They would not represent a diminution of safety standards and would have benefits.

Q100 Chair: I will ask the Minister. Do you have any remaining concerns about the proposed changes after becoming aware of the volume of representations that we have received, and I know you will have received in other ways? Do you have any concern about the changes and whether they might reduce safety standards for this country?

Mrs Villiers: As I have said, I think the CAA is right to conclude that the package now on offer from EASA is broadly equivalent to current UK standards and it would have the benefit of bringing other nations’ regulatory practices up to a level that is broadly equivalent to the UK’s. Of course we have looked very carefully at all the representations made by MPs, and a very detailed process has been undergone through the consultation process, meaning that these proposals now on the table are considerably different from those that were aired initially. We will continue to listen to representations as the debate takes place within the Comitology Committee, but as things stand at the moment we think that what is on offer would not lead to a deterioration in the high levels of safety that we currently have in the UK.

Q101 Chair: Did you at any stage in all the negotiations that have taken place seek to maintain the UK’s ability to have higher standards than those that were going to be agreed overall? Did you at any stage seek to do that?

Mrs Villiers: As I have said, the decision was made by the previous Government to opt for a system where there was a uniform-

Q102 Chair: Did you seek to change that?

Mrs Villiers: I continue to believe that there are some advantages to a harmonised approach.

Q103 Chair: But did you seek to change that?

Mrs Villiers: No; I did not personally seek to revert to a system where the UK could continue to top up the safety standards set by the European Union. I thought the key thing was to ensure that the safety standards that were eventually produced by the process continue to protect UK air passengers to the highest levels.

Q104 Graham Stringer: I have a final very general question. Since EASA was set up there have been criticisms from this Committee and other places of EASA. Are you now satisfied that it is fit for purpose?

Andrew Haines: EASA started off on some very rough ground. It had a very large task. It had very limited resources. It is now resourced up. I think it is much better at consulting and engaging with national authorities. It utilises our resources, and I am confident that EASA is now a properly functioning organisation. Of course we would want it to do a little better, just as we would for ourselves, but it is a good safety regulator, which is working well.

Q105 Graham Stringer: Can you be more detailed about where you would like to see it improve?

Andrew Haines: It has to develop its competence. It is on a journey. These operational standards, for example, are just being introduced now. It needs to continue to be able to fund and develop research so that we can continue with the science. When it comes to air traffic management, that is a whole new territory again. It is going to need to develop its competence. We are very keen that it continues to work with national authorities such as ourselves to draw on collective expertise.

Chair: Thank you very much.


[1] See ev 51

[2] See ev 51

[3] See ev 51

Prepared 29th May 2012