FAA issues final rule on pilot fatigue

December 21, 2011

The U.S.  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule that overhauls commercial passenger airline pilot scheduling to ensure pilots have a longer opportunity for rest before they enter the cockpit. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was pleased with the new rule but also voiced concerns on the limitation to Part 121 carriers.

Fatigue has been on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements since 1990. The Department of Transportation identified the issue of pilot fatigue as a top priority during a 2009 airline Safety Call to Action following the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407. The FAA launched an effort to take advantage of the latest research on fatigue to create a new pilot flight, duty and rest proposal, which the agency issued on September 10, 2010. This proposed rule is now final.

The NTSB reacted in a statemtent, saying that, “while this is not a perfect rule, it is a huge improvement over the status quo for large passenger-carrying operations. Yet, we are extremely disappointed that the new rule is limited to Part 121 carriers. A tired pilot is a tired pilot, whether there are 10 paying customers on board or 100, whether the payload is passengers or pallets.”

The estimated cost of this rule to the aviation industry is $297 million but the benefits are estimated between $247- $470 million. Covering cargo operators under the new rule would be too costly compared to the benefits generated in this portion of the industry. Some cargo airlines already have improved rest facilities for pilots to use while cargo is loaded and unloaded during night time operations. The FAA encourages cargo operators to opt into the new rule voluntarily, which would require them to comply with all of its provisions.

Key components of this final rule for commercial passenger flights include:

Varying flight and duty requirements based on what time the pilot’s day begins.
The new rule incorporates the latest fatigue science to set different requirements for pilot flight time, duty period and rest based on the time of day pilots begin their first flight, the number of scheduled flight segments and the number of time zones they cross. The previous rules included different rest requirements for domestic, international and unscheduled flights. Those differences were not necessarily consistent across different types of passenger flights, and did not take into account factors such as start time and time zone crossings.

Flight duty period.

The allowable length of a flight duty period depends on when the pilot’s day begins and the number of flight segments he or she is expected to fly, and ranges from 9-14 hours for single crew operations. The flight duty period begins when a flightcrew member is required to report for duty, with the intention of conducting a flight and ends when the aircraft is parked after the last flight. It includes the period of time before a flight or between flights that a pilot is working without an intervening rest period. Flight duty includes deadhead transportation, training in an aircraft or flight simulator, and airport standby or reserve duty if these tasks occur before a flight or between flights without an intervening required rest period.

Flight time limits of eight or nine hours.
The FAA limits flight time – when the plane is moving under its own power before, during or after flight – to eight or nine hours depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty period.

10-hour minimum rest period.
The rule sets a 10-hour minimum rest period prior to the flight duty period, a two-hour increase over the old rules. The new rule also mandates that a pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within the 10-hour rest period.

New cumulative flight duty and flight time limits.
The new rule addresses potential cumulative fatigue by placing weekly and 28-day limits on the amount of time a pilot may be assigned any type of flight duty. The rule also places 28-day and annual limits on actual flight time. It also requires that pilots have at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty on a weekly basis, a 25 percent increase over the old rules.

Fitness for duty.
The FAA expects pilots and airlines to take joint responsibility when considering if a pilot is fit for duty, including fatigue resulting from pre-duty activities such as commuting. At the beginning of each flight segment, a pilot is required to affirmatively state his or her fitness for duty. If a pilot reports he or she is fatigued and unfit for duty, the airline must remove that pilot from duty immediately.

Fatigue Risk Management System.
An airline may develop an alternative way of mitigating fatigue based on science and using data that must be validated by the FAA and continuously monitored.

In 2010, Congress mandated a Fatigue Risk Management Plan (FRMP) for all airlines and they have developed these plans based on FAA guidance materials. An FRMP provides education for pilots and airlines to help address the effects of fatigue which can be caused by overwork, commuting, or other activities. Airlines will be required to train pilots about the potential effects of commuting.

Required training updates every two years will include fatigue mitigation measures, sleep fundamentals and the impact to a pilot’s performance. The training will also address how fatigue is influenced by lifestyle – including nutrition, exercise, and family life – as well as by sleep disorders and the impact of commuting.

The final rule has been sent to the Federal Register for display and publication. It is currently available at: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/recently_published/media/2120-AJ58-FinalRule.pdf, and will take effect in two years to allow commercial passenger airline operators time to transition.


IATA, ICAO, IFALPA jointly announce Fatigue Risk Management Systems Implementation Guide

July 21, 2011

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) released a Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) Implementation Guide for commercial aircraft operators.

FRMS is a methodology based on scientific principles that will allow operators to manage the fatigue-related risks particular to their types of operations and context. It provides an alternative to traditional prescriptive flight and duty time rules. Advancements in science have brought a better understanding of the correlation between fatigue and performance as well as fatigue mitigation methods. The FRMS Implementation Guide applies these advancements to enhance flight safety at a time when fatigue is increasingly cited as a contributing factor in accidents.

IATA, ICAO and IFALPA collaborated on developing an FRMS Implementation Guide for Operators, in line with specific guidance for regulators. The Guide includes insight into the methodology and framework for implementing an effective fatigue risk management program and an explanation of the science supporting it.

The Council of ICAO recently adopted international standards for FRMS, to ensure both consistent implementation of FRMS by operators and oversight by regulators.

Source:


NTSB: decision to attempt a go-around late in the landing roll with insufficient runway remaining caused fatal BAe 125 accident in Owatonna

March 16, 2011

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of the 2008 BAe-125 plane crash at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport, Owatonna, Minnesota, was the captain’s decision to attempt a go-around late in the landing roll with insufficient runway remaining.

Contributing to the accident were the pilots’ poor crew coordination and lack of cockpit discipline; fatigue, which likely impaired both pilots’ performance; and the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require crew resource management training and standard operating procedures for Part 135 operators.

On July 31, 2008, East Coast Jets flight 81, a BAe 125-800A registered N818MV, crashed while attempting a go-around after touchdown and during the landing rollout at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport. The flight was a nonscheduled passenger flight. An instrument flight rules flight plan had been filed and activated; however, it was cancelled before the landing. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The two pilots and six passengers were killed.

The following safety recommendations were issued to the FAA:

  1. Require manufacturers of newly certificated and in-service turbine-powered aircraft to incorporate in their Aircraft Flight Manuals a committed-to-stop point in the landing sequence (for example, in the case of the Hawker Beechcraft 125-800A airplane, once lift dump is deployed) beyond which a go-around should not be attempted.
  2. Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and 91 subpart K operators and Part 142 training schools to incorporate the information from the revised manufacturers’ Aircraft Flight Manuals asked for in Safety Recommendation [1]  into their manuals and training.
  3. Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 and 91 subpart K operators to establish, and ensure that their pilots adhere to, standard operating procedures.
  4. Require principal operations inspectors of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 and 91 subpart K operators to ensure that pilots use the same checklists in operations that they used during training for normal, abnormal, and emergency conditions.
  5. Require manufacturers and 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and 91 subpart K operators to design new, or revise existing, checklists to require pilots to clearly call out and respond with the actual flap position, rather than just stating, “set” or “as required.”
  6. Work with the National Weather Service to revise Advisory Circular 00-24B, “Thunderstorms,” by including explanations of the terms used to describe severe thunderstorms, such as “bow echo,” “derecho,” and “mesoscale convective system.”
  7. Revise regulations and policies to permit appropriate use of prescription sleep medications by pilots under medical supervision for insomnia.
  8. Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 and 91 subpart K pilots to receive initial and recurrent education and training on factors that create fatigue in flight operations, fatigue signs and symptoms, and effective strategies to manage fatigue and performance during operations.
  9. Review the policy standards for all common sleep-related conditions, including insomnia, and revise them in accordance with current scientific evidence to establish standards under which pilots can be effectively treated for common sleep disorders while retaining their medical certification.
  10. Increase the education and training of physicians and pilots on common sleep disorders, including insomnia, emphasizing the need for aeromedically appropriate evaluation, intervention, and monitoring for sleep-related conditions.
  11. Actively pursue with aircraft and avionics manufacturers the development of technology to reduce or prevent runway excursions and, once it becomes available, require that the technology be installed.
  12. Inform operators of airplanes that have wet runway landing distance data based on the British Civil Air Regulations Reference Wet Hard Surface or Advisory Material Joint 25X1591 that the data contained in the Aircraft Flight Manuals (and/or performance supplemental materials) may underestimate the landing distance required to land on wet, ungrooved runways and work with industry to provide guidance to these operators on how to conduct landing distance assessments when landing on such runways.
  13. Require that 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 pilot‑in‑command line checks be conducted independently from other required checks and be conducted on flights that truly represent typical revenue operations, including a portion of cruise flight, to ensure that thorough and complete line checks, during which pilots demonstrate their ability to manage weather information, checklist execution, sterile cockpit adherence, and other variables that might affect revenue flights, are conducted.
  14. Require Part 121, 135, and 91 subpart K operators to ensure that terrain awareness and warning system-equipped aircraft in their fleet have the current terrain database installed.

More information:


FAA: new rule to prevent widespread fatigue on aging aircraft

November 13, 2010

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finalized a rule designed to protect most of today’s commercial planes and those designed in the future from structural damage as they age.

The new rule seeks to prevent “widespread fatigue damage” (WFD) by requiring aircraft manufacturers and certification applicants to establish a number of flight cycles or hours a plane can operate and be free from WFD without additional inspections for fatigue. Manufacturers have between 18 and 60 months to comply depending on the particular aircraft type.

Once manufacturers establish these limits, operators of affected aircraft must incorporate them into their maintenance programs within 30 to 72 months, depending on the model of aircraft. After the limit is in the maintenance program, operators cannot fly the aircraft beyond that point unless the FAA approves an extension of the limit.

An airplane’s metallic structures are stressed and can develop cracks when they experience repeated loads such as the pressurization and depressurization that happens on every flight. While airlines regularly inspect aircraft for cracks exceeding a certain size, WFD involves aircraft developing numerous tiny cracks, none of which would have raised concerns individually but which together run the risk of joining up and impairing the structural integrity of the plane.

The new regulation applies to airliners with a takeoff weight of 75,000 lbs. and heavier. It also applies to all transport designs certificated in the future.
The affected models, totaling 4,198 U.S.-registered airplanes, are listed in the rule.

The FAA is working closely with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other national authorities to harmonize this rule with their regulations as much as possible. EASA is now developing rulemaking to address WFD, and the FAA participates in that process.


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