Rule changes worrisome to Part 135 operators
With the FAA getting ready to take another run at flight, duty and rest regulations, Part 135 operators want to assure that their segment of the aviation industry is not included with Part 121 commercial airlines.
The FAA last proposed updating the rules in 1995, after some high-profile regional airline crashes. But, based on industry comments, the proposed rule was not adopted. Since then, the agency has reiterated the rules and kept pace with a changing industry by allowing airlines to use the latest fatigue-mitigation techniques to enhance safety.
As a result of the Colgan Air/ Continental Connection Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo, N.Y., in February, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced the formation of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to once again study fatigue, which could have been a factor in the accident. It was disclosed during congressional hearings that
the first officer of Flight 3407 had taken a red-eye flight from Seattle to Newark, N.J., the night before the crash and the captain spent much of that night in a pilot lounge at Newark.
The ARC is charged with developing recommendations for an FAA rule by September 1 and has already begun meeting. Meanwhile, NBAA is representing Part 135 interests, as the FAA considers potential new flight time and rest rules under what the FAA is calling a “Single Level of Safety.” NBAA was integral to the development of crew duty and rest rules in 2005, and the association is concerned that proposals developed at that time as part of an ARC would be undone.
Doug Carr, NBAA v-p of safety, security and regulation, served as chairman of a subcommittee that in 2005 developed flight time and rest requirements for charter operators and fractional providers. He believes that if Part 135 and Part 91K (fractional) operations get drawn into the current discussion, the recommendations that a Part 125/135 ARC tailored for various Part 135 operations will have been for naught.
Current FAA regulations for domestic air carrier flights generally limit pilots to eight hours of flight time during a 24-hour period. The FAA to date has not altered a 2001 Federal Register notice that calls for eight hours of rest in any 24-hour period.
The eight-hour flight time limit may be extended provided the pilot receives additional rest at the end of the flight. However, a pilot is not allowed to accept, nor is an airline allowed to assign, a flight if the pilot has not had at least eight continuous hours of rest during the 24-hour period. For Part 91 operators, there are no crew duty limits given in the FARs except for the eight-hour limitations for flight instructors.
Because international airline flights can involve more than the standard two-pilot crew, and are more complex due to the scope of operations, airlines must establish rest periods and provide adequate sleeping facilities for in-flight rest. The FAA said it will base new flight time and rest rules on fatigue science and a review of international approaches to the issue.
The NTSB has called the FAA’s response to four out of six safety recommendations addressing fatigue and duty- time limitations “unacceptable.” The recommendations include requiring training, check flights, ferry and repositioning flights to be incorporated in a pilot’s total revenue time, as well as taking into consideration the length of a duty day, starting time and workload when assigning flight crew hours.