FAA Issues New Rule on Pilot Duty Time

 - December 21, 2011, 12:23 PM
The FAA has amended flight duty and rest times for Part 121 flight crew

On Wednesday the FAA announced a final rule on pilot flight duty and rest requirements, a stricter regulation stemming from the Feb. 12, 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 near Buffalo. The rule amends existing work conditions for flight crew operating under Part 121, but exempts cargo carriers.

The rule requires that pilots have a minimum of 10 hours rest before each flight duty period, a two-hour increase over existing rules; places new limits on the number of hours a pilot can fly weekly and monthly; and extends the number of consecutive hours off in a seven-day period from 24 to 30. If a pilot feels too fatigued to fly, he or she is responsible for informing the carrier.

The rule takes a broader view of duty time “to include more than just the time spent flying the airplane,” said acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The flight duty period will include training in an aircraft or simulator, on-call time at an airport and “dead-heading” to another city to start a flight. “These duties are part of the work day, and they contribute to fatigue. So they will now be counted as flight duty time above the core job of flying the plane,” Huerta said.

Airlines have two years to comply with the rule, which is expected to cost them $390 million. “This rule does not apply to cargo operations because it would have been too costly to implement it compared with the benefits generated in this portion of the industry,” Huerta said. “The rule does, however, allow cargo operators to opt in voluntarily, and I encourage them to do so. ”