New Rules for Pilot Rest Go Into Effect Saturday

By Paul Riegler on 4 January 2014
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An American Airlines crew in an A321T

An American Airlines crew in an A321T

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 affected by the rule change.

According to the FAA, fatigue “threatens aviation safety because it increases the risk of pilot error that could lead to an accident.”

The rules, the implementation of which was timed to give sufficient time to plan, require airlines to ensure that pilots have uninterrupted rest time prior to flights.

One major change is that the FAA requires airlines to take into consider what time pilots start their day. Those who fly late at night or early in the morning, periods that are inherently more fatiguing, will get more rest.  Other factors that airlines will have to look at include how many takeoffs and landings are included, and whether a pilot has crossed time zones before reporting for work.

The FAA considers the new rules to be a major safety achievement and they are, in fact, the first major change in cockpit crew rest rules since the dawn of the jet age.  “This new rule gives pilots enough time to get the rest they really need to safely get passengers to their destinations,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta at the time the new rules were announced.

The rules also put the onus on the pilot when it comes to getting adequate rest before flying, an issue that will have a major impact on pilots that commute to their base by air.  ““Every pilot has a personal responsibility to arrive at work fit for duty,” said Huerta.

The changes have a tremendous impact on flight operations of airlines, which have had to add pilots, make changes to crew scheduling tools, and increase the number of reserve pilots who are on call to fly if needed.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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