The Latest Regulations Concerning Pilot Working Hours
It seems that recently one of the most important issues in pilot regulations has been pilot working hours’ related fatigue. Various aviation organizations continue arguing about how many hours a pilot can carry on flying without affecting flight safety.
The EU proposals regarding the issue of pilot fatigue, which would allow pilots to operate aircraft more than 20 hours of being awake, have been criticised as ‘a danger to public safety’ by the British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa). The Balpa representatives have pointed out that the aforementioned proposals would legally allow pilots to land their aircraft 22 hours after they have woken for the day. The organisation has also expressed its concerns that the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has appeared to be supporting the plans.
The Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: ‘Twenty hours of wakefulness is far from the only part of the proposals which give us serious concern. Compared to the UK’s domestic rules, the EU proposals would see pilots being able to fly further – as far as California – with no back-up crew and, contrary to scientific advice, allow pilots to do up to seven early starts in a row, which is desperately fatiguing.’
Furthermore, The International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), The International Air Transport Association (IATA), and The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have announced the release of a Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) Implementation Guide for commercial aircraft operators.
The FRMS is a methodology based on scientific principles that will allow operators to manage the fatigue-related risks particular to their types of operations and context. It provides a viable alternative to traditional prescriptive flight and duty time rules. Advancements in science have brought a better understanding of the correlation between fatigue and performance as well as fatigue mitigation methods. The FRMS Implementation Guide applies these advancements to enhance flight safety at a time when fatigue is increasingly cited as a contributing factor in accidents.
According to Flightglobal.com, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration of the United States) is in the final stage of implementing the highly controversial pilot fatigue rules. The new elements include requiring a minimum 10h rest period before a flight, up 2h from the current rule; defining flight duty time to include deadheading, simulator training and other duties as assigned by the airline, and requiring pilots to have at least 30h consecutive duty-free time on a weekly basis, a 25% increase from the current rules. There are also new monthly limits and a stipulation that a pilot sign off on the flight plan before a flight that he or she is fit for duty. Airlines will be required to switch pilots who have determined they are not fit for duty. The new rules should not address pilots who commute long distances to work and do not apply to cargo carriers and air taxi companies.
India is also facing the problem of aviation personnel job hours’ management. Concerned over work pressure of aircraft maintenance personnel (AMP) occasionally taking a toll on safety, the aviation regulator DGCA has asked all airlines to introduce duty time limitations for this workforce in line with pilots and cabin crew. According to official sources, the DGCA, in a latest airworthiness circular, has asked all airline companies to frame policy for the AMP duty time limitations and provide them with adequate rest periods like pilots and cabin crew.
As the aviation is becoming an increasingly global industry and the flights are connecting destinations located at opposite sides of the world, governments and aviation associations must answer the most important question: what are the normal working hours for aviation personnel?
Sources: Dailymail.co.uk, Iata.org, Dailyexcelsior.com, Scotsman.com, Flightglobal.com