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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
Budget airlines' pilots 'cut corners'
Travellers at an airport
Air passengers place their trust in pilots
Pilots working for some low-cost airlines have been accused of "disobeying instructions" from air traffic controllers because of pressures to avoid flight delays.

According to a whistle-blowers' safety report published on the internet, some pilots react "aggressively" when instructed by controllers to do something that could delay their flights.

The airlines have very good safety records

David Learmont
Flight International magazine

They are accused of, among other things, trying to save time by approaching airports too fast.

But the main budget airlines operating in the UK have reacted angrily to these claims saying safety and security are a priority.

An unnamed air traffic controller filed a safety report saying pilots were cutting corners because they were working under "extreme pressure on the flight deck to achieve programmed sector times".

The complaint was made to the UK Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme, known as Chirp.

Claims denied

Among the incidents were "failure to comply with assigned intermediate and final approach speeds... resulting in a go-around".

Pilots are also said to be ignoring longer flight paths which bypass residential areas and instead flying directly over villages and towns, increasing noise pollution.

But spokeswoman for airline Ryanair said: "We operate to the highest standards of international safety and like all airlines we are regulated by the aviation authorities."

A spokeswoman for KLM's budget airline Buzz said she was very surprised by the allegation.

Air traffic controllers
Air traffic controllers have complained of being overworked
Officials at Go said safety was "non-negotiable" and an immediate investigation would be launched if any pilot disregarded air control instructions.

"The success of the low-cost airlines means that pilots don't have to do this for financial reasons," said a company spokesman.

"It's traditional airlines who are making big losses that are under the most financial pressure."

David Learmont, safety editor of Flight International magazine, told the BBC's Breakfast programme that in order to keep ticket prices so low, budget airlines relied on their planes being in the air.

But he said: "There has been no safety breach. The airlines have very good safety records."

Earlier this month, safety fears were raised over air traffic controllers' workloads.

Staff at the UK's main control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire complained that safety could be compromised because they were too busy.

Increased complaints

Employees were making more than twice as many official complaints about their workload than this time last year, a new study showed.

Low cost airlines thrive on fast turnaround times which mean they can make more journeys, boosting profits.

Some only allow 25 minutes between flights arriving and leaving.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of Britons are facing travel chaos when a series of air industry strikes get under way across Europe on Wednesday.

Air traffic controllers last week rejected a 6% pay rise over two years offered by the National Air Traffic Services (Nats).

Members of the Prospect union, which represents air traffic controllers, are meeting on Tuesday to decide their next step.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"Low-cost airlines have less slack if delays occur"
Flight International's safety editor David Learmount
"Pilots may feel that they have to try to cut corners"

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