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Flying with fatigue: More Cathay Pacific pilots report flying with exhaustion

Last year, Cathay Pacific received almost 1,100 reports from pilots who said they were suffering from fatigue while flying. 

It's a 38 per cent jump from 2013, reported Hong Kong's Sunday Morning Post, and brings the number of reports to almost 3,500 since monitoring started four years ago. 

The increase in reports was attributed to the active encouragement of reporting on safety issues, according to both an airline spokesman and the president of the Airline Pilots Association, Darryl Soligo. 

Still, in a meeting between the association and the regulating body, the Civil Aviation Department, the latter expressed "concern" about a letter that senior pilots had sent to management about the fatigue problem. 

EXHAUSTION

Three weeks ago, the paper had reported that senior Cathay Pacific pilots had sent a letter to the airline's management, warning that exhaustion due to increasing workload would threaten flight safety. 

The letter, which was sent by the airline's most experienced captains, said that pilots were regularly hitting the cap on flying hours and were "tired and worn out".

It also cited "increased sickness rates". 

Part of the letter reads:

"Currently, we have a tired and worn out aircrew body. 

"This is manifesting itself in correspondingly increased sickness rates and, regrettably, a recent fatigue-related incident.

"Most pilots are routinely working overtime, and often volunteer to use their commander's discretion to complete flights that extend beyond the legal limit. 

"Full Annual Leave entitlement is not being granted to all crew and this is contributing to the buildup in long-term fatigue levels.

"Flights are constantly being cancelled due to lack of crews."

Read the letter in full here.

The "fatigue-related incident" was not addressed by Cathay Pacific in its reply to the Post. 

The cap on flying hours, in place to prevent fatigue, is known as approved flight time limitation (AFTL) and in Hong Kong it is overseen by the Civil Aviation Department. 

The letter had come a week after Cathay Pacific cancelled an agreement with the pilots' union that dictated flying hours and minimum cockpit manpower levels. 

The pilots highlighted that the letter was meant to express "concern and alarm" over the termination of the agreement, "specifically the potential change in crewing levels and how this may effect fatigue levels and, by extension flight safety". 

Responding to the Post, an airline spokesman said: 

“We are looking at these concerns and engaging directly with the pilots. Matters which relate to safety are always dealt with in a formal manner and they receive our utmost attention. The safety of passengers and crew is the No 1 priority.”

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