Pilots in Europe Are Failing an Important Test

December 11, 2015, 4:46 PM UTC
A 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. Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic control in 38 nations, said only 12,000 of the daily 28,000 flights in the affected zone would take off today, after about 6,000 were cancelled the day before. A huge cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland spread further across Europe on Friday, grounding thousands more flights in the continent's biggest air travel shutdown since World War II. AFP PHOTO GEORGES GOBET (Photo credit should read 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.