New rules to cut fatigue mean shorter flying hours for pilots
OTTAWA The federal government is enacting strict new measures to address mounting concerns about tired flight crews on commercial planes — big and small.
New regulations will set lower limits for the number of hours pilots can be in the air and on the job before having to take a break, taking into account the times of day they fly and how often they take off and land. Rules will set out how many hours a pilot can be on the job in one month, in three months and in a year. And new rules are being set for how many nights in a row a pilot can fly.
A daily maximum is also being set between nine and 13 hours, depending on what time of day a pilot starts work. Higher minimums are also being set for rest periods that will vary depending on whether a pilot is at home or away.
The new regulations come almost a decade after Transport Canada first looked at the issue.
“We rely on professional flight crews who have the training and experience to make sure that we travel safely. To do that, they need to be well-rested and fit for duty,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said. “I’m confident that the new regulations will reduce pilot fatigue and make air travel safer.”
Canada’s regulations on rest and duty time were excoriated in an American report this fall that pinned part of the blame on pilot fatigue in a July 2017 incident involving an Air Canada jet. The Airbus A320 nearly landed on a taxiway at San Francisco’s airport where other planes loaded with passengers awaited their turns to take off.
The Transportation Safety Board said in its most recent annual safety report that since the early 1990s, it has identified 34 aviation incidents where fatigue was an issue. It’s also a problem in rail and marine operations, the board said. “Effective fatigue management and the reduction of associated risks require profound changes in attitudes and behaviours, both at the management and operational levels,” the board said in its 2018 report.
The board recommended the government require airlines to create “fatigue risk-management systems” designed for their specific operations. Garneau said Wednesday the government will do just that, particularly for smaller airlines like those serving the North.
“We have accommodated to try to recognize the reality that exists in some of our smaller regional and northern airlines,” he said. “We have tried to be sensitive to this without compromising on safety.”
Specialty services like medical and firefighting aircraft will be exempt from the time limits.
New rules are also being introduced to prohibit alcohol consumption for flight crew members 12 hours before duty, an increase from eight hours.