New EU limits for airline pilot duty periods at night are being questioned by MPs.

The Commons transport committee supported some of the European Commission’s draft rules on pilots’ flying hours.

But it remains “concerned” that the EU is not setting lower limits for night flights.

The committee says fatigue contributes to 15-20% of fatal aviation incidents caused by human error.

It also concluded that:

  • The potential under-reporting of pilot fatigue must be properly recognised if it is to be effectively tackled.

  • Information should be regularly published on the use of captain’s discretion to extend their crew’s flight duty period if unforeseen circumstances arise.

  • Scientists must have a more central role in the development and assessment of flight time limitation proposals.

Chairman Louise Ellman MP said: “Flight time limitations remain a serious concern with 43% of UK pilots reporting that they fall asleep involuntarily while on the flight deck.

“It is vital that high aviation safety standards are maintained. That is why the new flight time regulation must be closely scrutinised and the Committee’s concerns taken forward.

“Overall, the Commission’s draft regulation represents an improvement on the European Aviation Safety Agency proposal to increase the number of hours pilots can fly, which we criticised in our report a year ago, but we remain concerned about several areas.

“We are particularly worried about the apparent reluctance of the Commission when developing these regulations to set a lower limit for the flight duty period at night in accordance with the scientific evidence on this matter. It is disappointing that the UK government has not pressed for a lower limit.

“It is also disappointing that a consensus has not been reached on the draft regulations with crew and pilot representatives.”

The government should press the Commission to ensure an effective monitoring regime is put in place to examine whether an 11-hour limit is at least as safe as the current regime, she added.