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Pilots in Malta do not trust their airlines when it comes to reporting fatigue

Pilots in Malta are the least trusting in Europe of systems that are designed to manage the risk of pilots being tired in the cockpit, according to a new survey.

Just 5.7% of Maltese pilots trust their airline’s procedures for reporting fatigue, the report by the European Cockpit Association found.

Findings of the survey, carried out by aviation firm Baines Simmons, also found a lack of awareness among Malta-based pilots about processes to report and manage fatigue and a fear about the consequences of doing so.

Nearly 7,000 pilots across Europe were surveyed for the report about the signs and contributors of fatigue, which found one in four experienced a microsleep while operating aircraft. This is when a person falls asleep for a few seconds.

Maltese pilots were among the most critical of airline procedures for managing fatigue in the cockpit, along with pilots in Ireland who also gave low rankings in most categories.

“Malta and Ireland are consistently ranked in the bottom two or three positions across all the answer options,” the report said.

“This demonstrates challenges to be further investigated by the national inspectors and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).”

Nearly 67% of Maltese pilots said that fatigue risk was not well managed while only 8% said their airlines communicated well with them when it came to fatigue.

Just a quarter of Maltese pilots said it was easy to access their fatigue reporting system, compared to the overall average across Europe of 44%. While 25% of European pilots said fatigue reports were quick and easy to complete, only 14% of Maltese pilots said they agreed with that statement.

Less than 4% of Maltese pilots said that submitting fatigue reports led to any changes or improvements to safety, 20 percentage points away from top-scoring Italy. Some 91% of Maltese pilots said they would be concerned about refusing to extend their flying time past their official duty.

According to guidelines set by EASA, airline operators must have systems in place to manage and identify risks that pilots and crew face during their job. The guidelines specify that fatigue counts as one of those risks.

Currently, 46 airlines have registered air operator certificates in Malta.

Responding to questions sent by Times of Malta, a spokesperson for Air Malta said the operator adheres to duty limitations set by the EASA.

The spokesperson explained that fatigue risk management (FRM) and safety are top priorities for the company.

“By employing these FRM strategies, the airline can proactively counter fatigue-related risks, with our ultimate aim being to enhance safety which is the airline’s number one priority,”  said the spokesperson, clarifying that the survey includes pilots flying for other airlines operating out of Malta.

Questions have also been sent to the Airline Pilots Association Malta.