Pilots have welcomed the rejection of planned new Europe-wide rules on flying hours their union claims will cut UK flight safety.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association is now calling on the government and MEPs to act to “protect the safety of our skies”.

The vote by 20 to 13 MEPs in the EU transport and tourism select committee rejected the proposals yesterday.

But they will still be voted on by the full European Parliament in the coming weeks.

The union will be pressing UK MEPs to vote against the proposals in a full session of the European Parliament and for the government ministers to oppose them in the EU Council of Ministers.

Balpa will also be pressing for the UK aviation minister to insist on an audit of the proposals by an independent group of scientists and medical experts to be allowed to audit the proposals before they progress any further.

General secretary Jim McAuslan said: “British pilots will welcome the EU Transport Committee’s rejection of the proposed EU cuts to UK flight safety.

“The botched new rules have been rejected by scientists, MPs on the UK transport committee, British pilots with 40 million hours of flying experience between them and by the public, 90% of whom are concerned that a pilot could be landing their aircraft having been awake for 22 hours.

“The Commission must now go back to the drawing board and work with pilots and scientists to develop rules on flying time and tiredness that are based on evidence and expert experience.

“Pilots will continue to urge UK Ministers, MEPs and the Civil Aviation Authority to protect the safety of our skies and help pilots make every flight a safe flight.”

Pilot Nico Voorbach, president of the European Cockpit Association, said” “We are pleased with this decision and congratulate the Parliamentarians for their strong stance on safety.

“This is what Europe’s citizens expect from the EU and opposing this proposal was the only reasonable step. Flying for 11-12 hours 30 minutes through the night while scientists set this limit at 10 hours maximum is not acceptable.

“We now call upon the Commission to withdraw its proposal and come back with a truly safe package.”