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Pilots in Europe Are Failing an Important Test

A Eurocontrol aviation expert points toA Eurocontrol aviation expert points to
A Eurocontrol aviation expert points to aviation traffic in the south of Europe on a screen on April 16,2010 in the operation room of the Eurocontrol building in Brussels. GEORGES GOBET-AFP/Getty Images

Pilots in European airspace are not responding correctly to midair-collision alarms at a concerning rate, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The report cites a study by Eurocontrol, the EU agency that coordinates air-traffic control for all of Europe. The study found that roughly 25% of pilots “failed to take the correct evasive action” after receiving computer-generated warnings. That rate rose to 36% for follow-up alarms, according to the report.

None of these incidents, which were pulled from a sample of more than 800 flights, actually led to accidents. But Tzvetomir Blajev, the Eurocontrol official who ran the study told the Journal that “the number of improper responses is concerning.”

While air travel is generally very safe by any standards, accidents do happen. In 2002, a DHL cargo plane collided with a Russian-built charter plane over European airspace, leading to 71 fatalities.

According to the Journal, findings on pilot error rates in other regions, like the United States, have not been released, making it impossible to compare these findings to other regions.