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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Ryanair denies pilots 'exhausted'
Ryanair plane
Ryanair pilots can cancel flights to maintain safety
Ryanair has denied allegations that pilots are facing so much pressure they are disobeying instructions from air traffic controllers.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary told the BBC his pilots were not overworked and said safety was their top priority.

His comments followed fresh accusations in Wednesday's Times newspaper that a Ryanair pilot was sacked for allegedly refusing to take off when exhausted.
Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive
O'Leary said the only priority for his pilots was safety

Earlier, a whistle-blower's safety report published on the internet had claimed pilots were cutting corners in order to save time and avoid delaying flights.

Mr O'Leary, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said: "For every pilot flying commercial aircraft in Europe today, the only pressure they are under is to prioritise safety.

"No exclusion, no deviations are made from that policy.

"A pilot is free to fly an aircraft late, cancel a flight or divert a flight at any stage, if there is any doubt in his mind he will compromise safety.

"And we would fully support, as would any other airlines, at any stage."

Ryanair pilots probably have the best roster arrangements of any group in Europe

Michael O'Leary
Ryanair chief executive

He refused to comment on the case of John Charles reported in The Times, which claimed the Ryanair captain was pursuing unfair dismissal after being too tired to take off.

But Mr O'Leary did deny Mr Charles had piloted five flights a day for five consecutive days.

He said: "Ryanair pilots probably have the best roster arrangements of any group in Europe."

The maximum they work is four flights a day for five consecutive days, he added.

'Ignoring flight paths'

The whistleblower's report which emerged on Tuesday accused pilots of trying to save time by approaching airports too fast.

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.

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

As well as Ryanair, other budget airlines Go and Buzz angrily denied the allegations and said safety was a priority.


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