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Pilot Flight Time,
Rest, and Fatigue
Provided by FAA Sources
Ensuring that all pilots receive adequate hour period and find that he/she has had
rest is key to maintaining a safe aviation an opportunity for at least eight hours of
system. FAA Administrator Randy Bab- rest. If a pilot’s actual rest is less than nine
bitt has made the creation of new flight, hours in the 24-hour period, the next rest
duty, and rest rules based on fatigue sci- period must be lengthened to provide for
ence a high priority. The FAA is working the appropriate compensatory rest. Air-
on an aggressive timeline to issue a new line rules may be stricter than the FAA’s
proposal. regulations if the issue is part of a collec-
Airplanes operate globally in 24 time tive bargaining agreement.
zones. Domestic short leg, multi-leg, and Flight time and rest rules for U.S. air
long haul flights all present challenges. carrier international flights are different
Engine technology has evolved enabling from the rules for domestic flights. Inter-
airplanes to fly much further than in the national flights can involve more than the
past. Since many air carriers fly non-stop standard two-pilot crew and are more
ultra-long-range flights, the FAA contin- complex due to the scope of the opera-
ues to evaluate the latest research on the tions. For international flights that require
effects of time zone changes on circadian more than 12 hours of flight time, air car-
rhythm and time zone changes to mitigate riers must establish rest periods and pro-
pilot fatigue. The FAA continues to be at vide adequate sleeping facilities outside
the forefront of raising awareness of fa- of the cockpit for in-flight rest.
tigue and mitigation techniques. An air carrier may not schedule any pi-
The FAA last proposed updating the lot and no pilot may accept an assignment
rules in 1995 but, based on industry com- for flight time in scheduled air transporta-
ments, the rule was not adopted. Since tion or other commercial flying if that pi-
then, the agency has reiterated the rules lot’s total flight time will exceed the
and kept pace with a changing industry by regulatory limits.
allowing airlines to use the latest fatigue It is the responsibility of both the air
mitigation techniques to enhance safety. carrier and the pilot to prevent fatigue, not
Overview Of The Current Federal
only by following the regulations, but also
by acting responsibly while serving the
Aviation Regulations
traveling public. This means taking into
Regulations limiting flight time and pi- consideration weather conditions, air traf-
lot rest have been in place since the 1940s. fic, the health of each pilot, and any other
The rules for domestic flights do no ex- personal circumstances that may affect a
plicitly address the amount of time a pi- pilot’s performance. The FAA has recom-
lot can be on duty. Rather, the rules mended that air carriers include fatigue
address flight time limitations and re- training as part of their crew resource
quired rest periods. Current FAA regula- management training programs.
tions for domestic flights generally limit
pilots to eight hours of flight time during a
FAA Actions
24-hour period. This limit may be ex-
Withdrawal Of The 1995
tended provided the pilot receives addi-
Proposal
tional rest at the end of the flight. In order to move forward with a new
However, a pilot is not allowed to accept, rule, the FAA formally withdrew the old
nor is an airline allowed to assign, a flight proposal by publishing a notice in the Fed-
if the pilot has not had at least eight con- eral Register on November 23. The notice
tinuous hours of rest during the 24-hour reiterated that the 1995 proposal was out-
period. In other words, the pilot needs to dated and raised many significant issues.
be able to look back in any preceding 24- Continued on page 22
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