Low cost and cargo airlines in Europe suffer from a weaker safety culture and a higher number of fatigued pilots compared to network airlines. These are among the findings of a new study carried out by the London School of Economics (LSE) and Eurocontrol within the framework of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Future Sky Safety programme.
The study is being highlighted by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), which represents European pilots and which has drawn attention to the pilot fatigue issue for years.
The survey among 7,239 pilots reveals that European aviation can pride itself on a generally good safety culture. Using 11 dimensions to define “safety culture”, researchers polled pilots about their perceptions to build a total score for the level of safety culture across European airlines. The results show that pilots are confident in flying, encourage their colleagues to speak up and believe in their colleagues’ commitment to safety.
However, alongside this overall positive assessment, the research also produced the following findings:
• A majority of pilots (58%) are flying while fatigued;
• Only slightly more than one out of three (39%) believes adequate training is provided when new systems and procedures are introduced;
• Less than half of respondents think they receive timely feedback on the safety issues they raise (45%);
• Half of the respondents believe there is no good communication in the company about safety;
• Only one out of three (37%) pilots have a high degree of trust in their airline’s management regarding safety;
• One out of five (20%) is not satisfied with the level of confidentiality of the safety reporting and investigation processes;
• Less than half of the pilots believe the national Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) take safety seriously (46%).
The study found that pilots working for low-cost or cargo airlines rate their companies’ safety culture more negatively than pilots working for network carriers. 42% of low cost pilots and cargo pilots believe their companies do not have sufficient staff to do the work safely, against 20% in network carriers.
The ECA noted that the study reveals that the percentage of fatigued pilots is larger in Low Cost Carriers (76%) and cargo airlines (83%). In addition, it underlined the study’s finding that more than 50% of pilots feel their airline does not take the issue of fatigue seriously.