View Full Version : No more sleepy pilots - FAA officials and airlines should heed advice and revise rule

18th Jun 2008, 16:25
Sun Editorial:
No more sleepy pilots

Federal officials and airlines should heed advice and revise rules

Sun, Jun 15, 2008 (2:07 a.m.)

The National Transportation Safety Board says too many airline pilots are sleepy at the controls and that federal aviation and airline officials should rewrite the rules governing the number of hours pilots may work.
The NTSB voted in favor of the recommendation Tuesday after discussing accidents and close calls in which pilot fatigue played a role. In one astonishing incident in February, the two pilots of Go! Airlines Flight 1002 fell asleep and flew past their Hawaii destination, cruising out over the ocean for 18 minutes before waking up and safely landing the plane, USA Today reports.
The pilots, an NTSB investigator said, had been flying together for three days on a “demanding” schedule of several short flights that “involved early start times.”
Federal law allows pilots to work up to 16 hours a day, with eight of those hours behind the controls of an aircraft. In some situations, pilots may be allowed to work longer.
The NTSB has called on the Federal Aviation Administration to join with airline officials in analyzing existing pilot fatigue reports and revising the law.
The controversy has been simmering for more than a decade. Airline executives oppose changing the rules, saying crews get the required eight hours of rest time between shifts. But, as pilots have said in previous news stories, that period starts when the cockpit door opens, and it ends as passengers are boarding the flight eight hours later. Factoring in travel time to and from the airport and grabbing a meal, pilots say, they are lucky to get four or five hours of sleep before stepping back into the cockpit.
This is unacceptable. These pilots take hundreds of people 40,000 feet into the air for hours at a stretch. Passengers rightly expect that those at the controls of these aircraft are alert and prepared for whatever may occur. The cockpit of an airliner is no place for a sleepy driver. The FAA and airline officials must take the NTSB’s advice and revise the rules to ensure the utmost safety of air travelers.

18th Jun 2008, 17:26
Interesting powerpoint presentation by the F.A.A.

Aviation Fatigue Management Systems

18th Jun 2008, 17:44
Interesting powerpoint presentation by the F.A.A.

Aviation Fatigue Management Systems
http://www.ntsb.gov/events/2008/FMS-...sentations.htm (http://www.ntsb.gov/events/2008/FMS-Rec/presentations.htm)

That's by the NTSB but interesting anyway.

18th Jun 2008, 17:54
Your are right, sorry. The presentation is from the NTSB. Got excited that someone from the government cares about pilots rest.

Hope the FAA takes the recommendation in their first line of action, too many accidents are because of exceeding human limits.

Modern machines can do it 24/7 but the four or three stripe guys need to be rested in order to fly safely and bring passengers home without harm.

18th Jun 2008, 18:05
I too got excited that FAA might have finally taken fatigue issues seriously enough to do a presentation. :} Then I was a bit disappointed that it was the NTSB (who I believe have been recommending for a while that fatigue issues be better managed), but still, it is good that the issue is being floated again.

I do hope that FAA will tackle the fatigue issue, firstly from the safety point of view but also from the 'humane' point of view. Their flight time limitations do seem to me to be too relaxed.

18th Jun 2008, 19:24
I remember when we had some very good Duty Times rules in BA...They were formulated by a chap named Douglas Bader. They somehow got sold way back in time :bored:

18th Jun 2008, 23:17
If we review U.K. CAP 371, named The Avoidance of Fatigue In Aircrews, we will see in the first lines of the Foreword of that CAP the recognition of the importance of the Bader Report in flight time limitations. Yes, it was way back in 1950 that someone realized that fatigue is a contributory factor in aviation accidents.

It may seem incredible nowadays, but many airlines oppose to FDTL, not realizing that it costs too much more to have an accident with dead bodies being shown on television, and still push towards a no limitation scenario. Maybe an accountant made the numbers and came up to a death/cost ratio that it becomes preferable to pay for dead passengers than to have pilots correctly rested.

19th Jun 2008, 00:02
We've been told to "compartmentalize" our fatigue....

19th Jun 2008, 01:13
Is the quoted min rest period actually correct? Eight hours seems a little tight (NZ min rest is ten hours-which is tight enough). Do most Part 121/125 operators conform to this rest period or are more stringent working conditions prevalent (negotiated by union?).

A sixteen hour day is quite a stint too.

19th Jun 2008, 04:24
Yes, US FARs allow 16 hours duty and 8 hours rest. Go into the supplemental rules and there's no daily rest requirement, only the "one in seven."

19th Jun 2008, 05:59
Having worked for carriers in the UK (CAP371 at it's 1st incarnation, USS (91 & 121) & East African (none)) The only way to go is through the applications as given with the spirit of the Bader Committee and the enhancement of those rules/regs contained with CAP371. The BA Industrial document betters CAP371 & is the way forward I believe, not a relaxation. FARs are a bloody joke in this regard, too damn cozy with the carriers themselves.

Euro LCCs also need to be closely looked at, multi sector/cut down T/R times etc.

Rant not over, under the FARs one carrier operated 16 hr trip under 121 then backend ferry under 91. Total FDT 21 hrs, total DT 29 hrs. Crew compliment 1 Capt, 2 FOs, 2 FEs & 1 Loadmaster.

19th Jun 2008, 06:54
And the Indian DGCA thinks otherwise... No FDTL in vogue now.

19th Jun 2008, 07:43

Inflight Napping Strategies review in 2003 for those interested.

19th Jun 2008, 12:22
Just from memory some of the Bader rules were:-

12 hours Duty...13 hours OFF
13 hours Duty...14 hours OFF
14 hours Duty...15 hours OFF
15 hours Duty...16 hours OFF
16 hours Duty...17 hours OFF
If 16 hours duty exceeded then write a letter to the Minister...I only had to do that once.

Duty time was measured from reporting at the desk, to a certain time after last landing (debriefing time but can't remember the figure).

Anyway the rules were specifically designed to prevent pilots from flying while fatigued.

They were sold or exchanged in the 1980s for either a payrise or perhaps the introduction of Bidline.

19th Jun 2008, 23:53
The FAA and NTSB have known this for a long time but have done nothing.
What happend to the study and report made by NASA many years ago recomending lower FDTL?
I don't think they are going to do much.

20th Jun 2008, 19:45
Sadly, we were given wonderful rest, good hotels, wonderful days off and the like.

A first class US carrier. You could get your time in within 10 to 12 days of work.

We flew alot, but rarely less than 12 hours off. Rarely if ever sleepy in the cockpit.


then came the very low cost carriers...pay less to pilots, make them work more, less rest, very cheap hotels.


And everyone had to come down to their level to compete.


now we are just waking up (pun int) to the problems.


were doing it right for years.

20th Jun 2008, 23:24
Don't know FAA regs but, surely if flt attendants run under 121.467 then there must be something relevant to pilots

121.467 Duty period means the period of elapsed time between reporting for an assignment involving flight time and release from that assignment by the certificate holder conducting domestic, flag, or supplemental operations. The time is calculated using either Coordinated Universal Time or local time to reflect the total elapsed time.

21st Jun 2008, 01:04
In parts 121 and 135 there are limits of duty time and rest hours set.
However under Part 91 you can fly until you drop - perhaps literally.

(Above is actual text from a powerpoint presentation by the FAA, link via
http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/orl/local_more/media/ppt/5stepv2.ppt (http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/orl/local_more/media/ppt/5stepv2.ppt))

Too many in the air transportation industry will say that, unfortunately, the limits in parts 121 and 135 are driven by the airlines (or their powerful lobbies which is the same)

21st Jun 2008, 01:12
Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
Subpart Q—Flight Time Limitations and Rest Requirements: Domestic Operations
§ 121.471 Flight time limitations and rest requirements: All flight crewmembers.
(a) No certificate holder conducting domestic operations may schedule any flight crewmember and no flight crewmember may accept an assignment for flight time in scheduled air transportation or in other commercial flying if that crewmember's total flight time in all commercial flying will exceed—
(1) 1,000 hours in any calendar year;
(2) 100 hours in any calendar month;
(3) 30 hours in any 7 consecutive days;
(4) 8 hours between required rest periods.
(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, no certificate holder conducting domestic operations may schedule a flight crewmember and no flight crewmember may accept an assignment for flight time during the 24 consecutive hours preceding the scheduled completion of any flight segment without a scheduled rest period during that 24 hours of at least the following:
(1) 9 consecutive hours of rest for less than 8 hours of scheduled flight time.
(2) 10 consecutive hours of rest for 8 or more but less than 9 hours of scheduled flight time.
(3) 11 consecutive hours of rest for 9 or more hours of scheduled flight time.
(c) A certificate holder may schedule a flight crewmember for less than the rest required in paragraph (b) of this section or may reduce a scheduled rest under the following conditions:
(1) A rest required under paragraph (b)(1) of this section may be scheduled for or reduced to a minimum of 8 hours if the flight crewmember is given a rest period of at least 10 hours that must begin no later than 24 hours after the commencement of the reduced rest period.
(2) A rest required under paragraph (b)(2) of this section may be scheduled for or reduced to a minimum of 8 hours if the flight crewmember is given a rest period of at least 11 hours that must begin no later than 24 hours after the commencement of the reduced rest period.
(3) A rest required under paragraph (b)(3) of this section may be scheduled for or reduced to a minimum of 9 hours if the flight crewmember is given a rest period of at least 12 hours that must begin no later than 24 hours after the commencement of the reduced rest period.
(4) No certificate holder may assign, nor may any flight crewmember perform any flight time with the certificate holder unless the flight crewmember has had at least the minimum rest required under this paragraph.
(d) Each certificate holder conducting domestic operations shall relieve each flight crewmember engaged in scheduled air transportation from all further duty for at least 24 consecutive hours during any 7 consecutive days.
(e) No certificate holder conducting domestic operations may assign any flight crewmember and no flight crewmember may accept assignment to any duty with the air carrier during any required rest period.
(f) Time spent in transportation, not local in character, that a certificate holder requires of a flight crewmember and provides to transport the crewmember to an airport at which he is to serve on a flight as a crewmember, or from an airport at which he was relieved from duty to return to his home station, is not considered part of a rest period.
(g) A flight crewmember is not considered to be scheduled for flight time in excess of flight time limitations if the flights to which he is assigned are scheduled and normally terminate within the limitations, but due to circumstances beyond the control of the certificate holder (such as adverse weather conditions), are not at the time of departure expected to reach their destination within the scheduled time.
[Doc. No. 23634, 50 FR 29319, July 18, 1985, as amended by Amdt. 121–253, 61 FR 2612, Jan. 26, 1996]

21st Jun 2008, 01:18
An then, depending on the airline and route, this applies:

121.480 to 121.493

121.500 to 121.525
http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=92e2469a4d53c0dd1227fbad97c228d3&rgn=div6&view=text&node=14: (http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=92e2469a4d53c0dd1227fbad97c228d3&rgn=div6&view=text&node=14:

21st Jun 2008, 12:17
Well all that is so complex that I just wonder who actually polices those scheduling rules...Seems to me that if all the rules are obeyed by the schedulers then there should be no problem :)

21st Jun 2008, 15:02
That is the idea, they make it complex enough that it seems hard to understand some parts it, so only the upper level officials or the higher paid airline lawyers can play around with it.

While trying to refuse arguments of a foreign aviation regulatory agency that wanted to change their national FDTL limitations because an airline wanted to do transcontinental flights, and as you can correctly guess that airline was pushing to their favor including pilots flying 14 continuous hours without rest bunks and turn around after an 8 hour rest at a nearby hotel, I browsed through some countries ruling, and found different ways to look at FDTL. That information helped to prepare a good answer to the proposed change, and you are right, nobody at the airline headquarters and the authorities like me anymore.

But a strong mesage to everyone was posted:
Safety is number one in the flight line. Tired pilots are dangerous.

21st Jun 2008, 15:55
Well keep up the good work...Seems to me that a computer program is required called "FDTL"...The program would have every rule in it and the user input would be a pilot's scheduled roster...The output would be the various reject points with the name of the rule that the point was contravening.

21st Jun 2008, 17:52
Actually, there is a program called SAFE which deals the subject of air crew fatigue, that was developed using various data from actual flight crews doing flights in different real scenarios, being short routes to ultralong ones. The model is in use by some airlines now.

23rd Jun 2008, 00:42
In reference to the Part 121 requirements I was rather interested the other day as a pax on a late afternoon flight departing Houston when the Capt announced that he was on his 13 hour on push back (2 crew) with expected delays.

We then sat in a without moving in a line for 45 mins when sanity was regained when he announced that they were out of hours and would be returning to the gate. The question being what are the hours for two crew?

23rd Jun 2008, 01:24
Two crew, that is a Capt and FO in the US, flying domestic are maximun of 8 hours flight time and max. 16 hours on duty. The 8 hours of flight can and is sometimes exceeded when the delay is not the fault of the air carrier. IE: mx. wx, etc.

You can not be scheduled for over 8 hours though. The max 16 hour duty day can not be exceeded. That is, if you are taxiing out and your T/O is delayed for whatever reason, you must calculate your reasonable estimate new time of departure. If this new time of departure will cause you to land at destination with over 16 hours, that is ETA plus normaly 30 minutes for post flight and close the aircraft, then you can not depart. Taxi back to gate and go to the hotel. Thats how the US FAR 121 and 135 work.

Most unionized pilot groups negotiate a shorter day, IE max 14 duty day SCHEDULED, but the company can still run you to 16 hours if a delay was mx or wx related.