Canadian pilots to spend less time flying, more time resting
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2018 11:03AM EST
Transport Canada is forcing airlines to give their pilots more rest and less time in the sky in an attempt to crack down on fatigue, which has been blamed for dozens of incidents involving Canadian aircraft.
Under a series of new regulations announced Wednesday, the maximum number of hours a pilot can fly in a calendar year is decreased from 1,200 hours to 1,000. The maximum shift duration falls from its current 14 hours of flight duty to 13 hours – and even that number is only reachable during certain times of day and for certain flights. Depending on the time and geography, some pilots will be restricted to a nine-hour flight duty shift maximum.
“Science has told us that for pilots who fly at certain times of day, fatigue is a more major factor,” Transportation Minister Marc Garneau said at a press conference announcing the new regulations.
Pilots will also be given longer mandatory rest periods. The existing rules allow for an eight-hour break plus additional time for meals and travel, adding up to 10 or 11 hours. Under the new rules, pilots will have between 10 and 12 hours of all-inclusive rest, depending on where they spend their breaks.
However, airlines will be able get around the new regulations by implementing a fatigue risk management system for their pilots, which will require Transport Canada approval. This system could potentially be used to keep pilots on-duty longer during lengthy international flights or while delivering cargo to remote northern communities.
“If we … feel that this will not have an effect on their alertness in flying, then we will accept that,” Garneau said.
Transport Canada’s rules to manage pilot fatigue were largely developed in the 1970s. The changes announced Wednesday are generally in line with regulations currently in place in the U.S. and Europe.
Large airlines will be given two years to meet the new regulations, while smaller carriers have a four-year phase-in period.
Most of the regulations were first proposed in 2017. Some changes were made based on feedback from the aviation industry, including a longer phase-in period and a decision to keep medevac pilots under the existing rules.
“That is something where we must make an exception to the rules, because of the very special nature of that kind of flying,” Garneau said.
According to the Transportation Safety Board, pilot fatigue has been cited as an issue in at least 34 serious aviation incidents since the early 1990s. It was also considered a contributing factor to the 2017 incident in San Francisco in which an Air Canada plane nearly landed on a taxiway, passing by four idling aircraft while only 60 feet above the ground.
Dan Adamus, the Canadian president of the Air Line Pilots Association advocacy group, said he was pleased with the new regulations.
“For too long, Canada has lagged far behind the rest of the world in ensuring its pilots are well-rested when they fly,” he said.
The federal government expects the new regulations to lead to an average airfare increase of 29 cents per ticket. The financial impact will be stronger in remote northern communities, where the average cost of a ticket is expected to increase by $1.76.
Another change announced Wednesday will see all flight crew members barred from consuming alcohol in the 12 hours before they begin a shift, up from the current eight-hour ban.