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Transport Canada proposes new rules on flight crew fatigue

New flight duty period requirements consider time of day, increased rest periods, free time
| www.cos-mag.com
airplane taking off

Pilots in Canada are facing new rules to ensure they are well rested and fit for duty before takeoff. The proposed changes to the Canadian Aviation Regulations aim to improve passenger and flight crew safety and align regulations with today’s scientific data, international standards and best practices, the federal government said.

“We cannot take chances when it comes to flight crew members whose judgment and performance could be impaired. The proposed rules will limit the amount of time a crew member can be on the job, and help operators manage fatigue risk,” said Marc Garneau, minister of transport.

The new rules prohibit flight crew members from working within 12 hours of drinking alcohol, up from eight hours.

New fit-for-duty rules will prohibit any flight crew member from working if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, suffering from a mental or physical condition or fatigued.

There are also new rules on flight crew fatigue management that address flight time and hours of work limits. Transport Canada has identified human factors, including fatigue, as one of its top four safety risk priorities.

The new flight duty period requirements take into account the time of day, increased rest periods and new requirements for free time.

A Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) will allow air operators to adapt policies, procedures and practices to manage fatigue risk in an operation. FRMS will allow operators, including those who provide cargo services, more flexibility as long as they can demonstrate an equivalent level of safety, said Transport Canada.

But the Safer Skies coalition, representing more than 8,000 passenger and cargo pilots across Canada, expressed “profound disappointment” in the regulations.

It says the new maximum allowable time for long haul flights at night far exceeds the hours recommended for pilots by NASA's Ames Research Center by up to 25 per cent.

“Canada had some of the worst aviation regulations in the world and after seven years of consultation, we still have one of the worst regulations in the world in many areas,” said Jerry Dias, national president, Unifor. “Nowhere else in the world can pilots fly as many hours in a day, week, and month with as little time off to recover as Canada. The government ought to use this opportunity to harmonize with international standards to strengthen protections for pilots and passengers.”

Since 2009, the International Civil Aviation Organization has required member states to update fatigue regulations based on the latest science. 

Airline operators will have one year to comply with the new requirements. The rest of the operators (air taxi and commuter operators) will have four years to comply. This concerns members of Safer Skies because “all pilots are equal and should have the same margin of safety across the board,” they said.

Canadians and members of the industry have until Sept. 29 to provide feedback on the draft regulations.

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