New rules that were first promulgated in 2011 went into effect on Saturday that completely overhaul commercial passenger airline pilot scheduling. The rules, which were drafted two years ago, are designed to ensure pilots, according to the rule, “do not accumulate dangerous amounts of fatigue“ before they enter the cockpit and restrict the number of hours they can work behind the controls. Cargo airline pilots are not covered by the rule change.
The new rules limit pilot duty time to nine or as many as 14 hours, depending on several factors that can add to fatigue. Duty will be restricted depending on what time of day the flight originates. Actual flight time, including all time when the airplane is moving under its own power, will be limited to eight or nine hours. The required rest period between duty days is extended to 10 hours, and pilots must be assured they have the opportunity for at least an eight-hour period of uninterrupted sleep.
One of the most fundamental changes in the new rule is that pilots must sign a statement before each duty period attesting that they are not fatigued and are “fit” and ready to fly. If a pilot cannot sign the statement, the airline must provide a replacement pilot. The FAA believes that the new flight and duty time scheduling, and the pilot’s “fit-to-fly” statement, will share the responsibility for fatigue avoidance between the airline and pilots.
The FAA says it applied research into fatigue factors to formulate the new standards. One of the major considerations is the time of day a pilot goes on duty. For example, if the duty day starts between midnight and 4 in the morning for the pilot’s “acclimated” time, the duty limit is nine hours because studies show fatigue risks are greater at that time. But if the duty day begins at seven in the morning, the duty day can stretch out to 14 hours.
Another factor in determining fatigue risks is the number of flight segments during the duty day, and time zones crossed. The previous rule did not consider the circadian issues of late night and very early morning flights and treated all duty periods the same.
There are also new cumulative flight hour limits for weekly, monthly, and annual maximums. And a pilot must have at least 30 uninterrupted hours off during any weekly duty period.
“We made a promise to the traveling public that we would do everything possible to make sure pilots are rested when they get in the cockpit. This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue.”
“Every pilot has a personal responsibility to arrive at work fit for duty. This new rule gives pilots enough time to get the rest they really need to safely get passengers to their destinations,” said FAA Acting Administrator Huerta.
See Flightcrew Member Duty and Rest Requirements Rule – Here.