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Emirates refutes claims that their pilots are being overworked.
May 6, 2009 3:11 by Aarti Nagraj
A number of the pilots working for Dubai-based Emirates Airlines have said that they are facing severe fatigue problems, reports an Australia-based daily the Sunday Herald Sun. The pilots, who did not want to be named, told the paper that they were being overworked because the airline was struggling through the economic crisis.
“I don’t want to see a smoking hole in the ground with an Emirates tail on it, but the way we’re going that’s highly probable,” one pilot told the paper.
“If there is going to be a fatigue-related accident, it is probably going to be Emirates,” added another.
One of the pilots also told the paper that fatigue was a major problem for those flying ultra-long-hauls, as they were “averaging 90 hours of flying time every 28 days and often reaching their maximum allowable limit.”
The report comes after the Australian Transport Safety Bureau clarified that fatigue did not play a role in the accident of an Emirates plane at the Melbourne Airport on March 20. The flight hit the runway repeatedly during take-off, forcing an emergency landing. All 257 passengers and 14 crew members on board the plane were safe.
Emirates Airline has rubbished the claims made in the Sunday Herald Sun, saying the newspaper was biased. In a statement sent to Kipp, Captain Alan Stealey, the divisional senior vice president, Flight Operations said that the “Sunday Herald Sun story, dated 3rd May, failed to include highly pertinent information that was provided to it by Emirates. As a result the story portrays ‘Pilot Alertness’ measures adopted by Emirates in an inaccurate and biased manner.”
“Emirates flight time limitation scheme (regulating pilot flying hours) is based on international industry norms and approved by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority.
“Under our scheme, pilots may fly a maximum of 100 flying hours in any 28 day period and 900 flying hours in 12 months. If in any 28 day period a maximum of 100 hours is flown, then automatically there is a corresponding decrease in the flying hours undertaken in the following months. On an average our pilots fly 75 hours per month over a 12 month period.”
He explained that on long haul flights, Emirates has more than one set of flight crew, allowing the aircraft crew to work in shifts and take rest breaks. The airline also limits the number of ultra-long range operations that a pilot can fly on an A340-500 to two per month.
Stealey explained that Emirates also has a ‘Fatigue Risk Management System’ to research and monitor long range operations: “An independent expert from the US, who is ex-NASA and is a world renowned expert on pilot alertness, is used to validate the sectors and the rest patterns.”
Alertness Solutions, an independent research company recently conducted tests of alertness and fatigue on Emirates’ ultra-long range flight sectors, said Stealey, as it was required for continuing approval for ultra-long range operations by the UAE Regulator. “The results indicated pilots are obtaining required rest on the layovers and in the crew rest compartments aboard the aircraft.”
“Specific testing of alertness during the critical minutes prior to landing and approach indicates no reduction of alertness,” he said.