What is the purpose of permitting duty day to be extended by the exercise of Commanders Discetion?
What I'm after is one of these two;
1. Is it purely for the company's benefit when, say, the crew are too low on hours to operate? So a crew are asked to exercise discretion (assuming of course, they are willing) to operate any flight for commercial reasons. I realise they may decline.
2. Is it to allow a crew that are willing to operate, to breach the FTLs purely for the purpose of getting home? In other words, the FTLs would normally stop them away from home-as they have insufficient hours to fly, but they're not tired and WANT to fly HOME (not away from base).
I know what our ops manual says, but what was the original intent when someone dreamt up this plan to delberately exceed the FTL hours?
Defintely not "To get the flight and crew home" - more to enable a flight that has, for unforseen reasons, gone out of schedule, to complete that flight, to scheduled destination, regardless, but subject to the crew being fit to do so.
The purpose of discretion has, at times, been abused. I have heard of people leaving base on a multi sector flight knowing discretion would be required to complete the schedule yet, at one time, the captain could only exercise discretion at the commencement of the final sector having properly assessed the physical state of all the crew members.
You will probably get a few more, different interpretations too!
Picture an un-tired crew, facing their last flight home, who are a bit too high in hours to do so within the FTLs.
The situation is that the FTLs- which are there to protect them, are actually working against them by stopping them operating home, even feeling ok. So a provision was made (exercise of Cmdrs discretion) to allow them to get home. Now, for sure- Discretion CAN be employed here.
Question is, if a crew are too high to operate going AWAY from base- knowing it's the last sector (so they were never going to go home this particular night)- is it still appropriate to breach the FTLs by exercising 'Discretion'?
If so, what's the point of the FTLs (apart from at the rostering stage) in the first place?
So a provision was made (exercise of Cmdrs discretion) to allow them to get home.
Fundamentally disagree with you there Atom, discretion was not introduced to allow a fit crew to exceed normal hours and get home, I didn't say that couldn't happen, I know it does, have used discretion myself, but the purpose is not to get the crew home, it is to complete the schedule or, at least, get the aircraft and crew into a better operational situation, (not commercial).
It's there to complete the schedule. And it is not "breaching the FTL", it is a part of the FTL. It is true that pilots would be most likely to exercise the option if it happens to be getting them home but that is not what its purpose is. The rule makers don't give a stuff about where crews spend the night, they just want to make the rules flexible enough so that unforeseen circumstances don't completely wreck the schedule. It basically allows a company to roster to the basic limits, knowing that there is some fat left if needed.
The situation is that the FTLs- which are there to protect them...
I disagree with the bolded part here. Flight and duty time limitations are not there to protect the crews, they are there to ensure a safe operation. Flight time limits are not to do with industrial relations, they are fundamentally to do with safety and are there for the good of everybody, the crews, the company, and the passengers. The crews are protected by whatever lifestyle clauses they've negotiated into their contract, not the FTLs.
Given that they are not there to protect the crews, there is no discrepancy when they prevent crews from getting home, the limits are working exactly as intended, to keep the operation safe. That is why if the option of an extension arises, the Captain must be satisfied that crew is fit to perform the duty.
Nothing to do with protecting the crew and/or letting them get home, everything to do with keeping fatigue down to a safe level while also allowing for some flexibility IF the crew feels rested enough.
Whether the limits are actually appropriate is another matter entirely .
Last edited by AerocatS2A; 10th Dec 2012 at 06:00.
I don't believe the company can "request" a Captain to exercise discretion. It is called "Captain's" discretion for a reason. I would regard a request to operate into discretion as an unreasonable intrusion and have always considered it to be beyond their remit. It would be seen as exerting pressure. Fortunately this has never happened to me in a series of UK airlines.
This means that the company must assume that you won't be exercising discretion unless you volunteer it and should (must) plan accordingly. Failure to do so implies the assumption of discretion which is exerting pressure in an underhand way and is equally, and in some ways more unacceptable. This invariably happens which is grossly unprofessional on the part of the Ops Dept.
Check the wording in your Ops manual. It will say words to the effect of "to be used only in exceptional circumstances". To me that cannot mean every time or nearly every time it might be applied. It means it must only be used rarely. So your occasions of declining discretion should greatly exceed those of exercising it, else it isn't exceptional, it has become routine. (as is the case in every company I have worked for bar none).
Equally "exceptional" does not, imho, include events like general operational lateness which is manifestly NOT exceptional, it is routine. Force majeure, unexpected airfield closures (not due to forecast weather), medical delays fine. Wildcat strikes perhaps but late bags, late flight plans, late fuel, late pax, never.
The bottom line is you should seldom exercise discretion, and than only when all crew are genuinely fit to operate (as they always will be even when dropping on their feet at the end of a 12 hr 4 sector bad day and just want to get home). Fat chance! I'd bet good money that not one case in 10 where it is used actually meets the criteria of "exceptional".
It is universally used - in my experience - as a "voluntary" duty-hour extension (and usually imposed by stealth) to cover normal operational glitches, which means it is universally misused.
Oh dear! We have indeed seen this Oozlum bird circling a few times on PPRuNe.
The UK CAA consider 'Discretion;' to be a 'normal ' part of a duty day and that crews should normally be fit to extend the FDP. (I have it in writing) and "I don't want to do it" is not acceptable. I am not fit to is.
I was once with an airline that 'ordered' a Captain to exercise his 'discretion' - fortunately he was wise enough to ask for this 'in writing'. Heads rolled.
The CAA (supposedly) monitor discretion reports from any airline and if the number rises too far (I have heard 30%) on a route the company is 'advised' to change the rotation.
It can and is used for any reason including 'general operational lateness' on a rotation that should have 'worked' ie is 'exceptional'. I have used it a few times, both in and out of base.
Maybe, but in the sense that they are there to "protect the crews", getting back to home base is not part of it. Getting back to home base and other lifestyle considerations are industrial relations issues while the FTLs are safety related. Industrial relations and FTLs have a certain amount of overlap but if you are thinking along the lines of "these FTLs are supposed to protect me but they aren't letting me get home tonight" then you've lost sight of what the FTLs are for.
Dunno about UK CAA, but some regulators require the Chief Pilot (or his minions) to monitor and investigate each use of Captain's discretion. If it is over-done the operator must take remedial action. Like hiring more crews, or setting realistic schedules. Some rules put a cap on the number of flights where discretion is allowed. Having been in the seat where I had to deal with these reports almost daily, it is such a pain in the arse to go through all the investigative process computerised SMS requires. It got to the stage where it was consuming too much time when it was obvious that it was just the company 'culture' to assume that discretion could always be used. I eventually gave written instruction to the crews that they were not to accept unrealistic schedules. It was usually a particular route or flight pattern that came up time and time again, very cleverly within the rule cap. The number of reports coming in occupied most of the SMS, to the detriment of other safety issues. Management did not like me telling crews to refuse trips, and regrettably there were some pilots who continued to go beyond the limits because somehow they thought that this would enhance their career prospects, or they simply wanted to log flight time to move on to greener pastures. Using discretion regularly to get home is an abuse of the intent. It is playing on the human tendency to prefer being in one's own bed to yet another night in a hotel. How many accidents have resulted from 'gethomeitis' and how many more from pilot fatigue?
Last edited by Mach E Avelli; 12th Dec 2012 at 01:12.