Is it time to rethink the start and stop of “flight and duty” time?

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News Article: A pilot’s shift starts long before the cockpit

What the passengers do not see beyond the excellent description of pre flight by Skaiste Knyzaite is the time before the flight crew arrives at the airport. If the pilot and co-pilot are on the second or more flights of their schedule, there are complex Federal Aviation Regulations and volumes of legal interpretations thereof that prescribe with much exactitude how many hours must pass in rest before these professional aviators may fly again.

What is beyond the purview of the regulations is their own time, the periods that precede the beginning of their duty time. The regulations place the burden on these “airmen” to present herself or himself for duty “fit” to perform the tasks required of a pilot in the cockpit of a sophisticated, complex airliner. It is incumbent upon the pilot to have adequate rest, be free of the influence of alcohol or drugs, be in good physical health and otherwise be ready to manipulate the plane’s controls.

What the author did not describe are the occasional instances in which a pilot chooses to live away from his or her domicile. The conscientious pilot travels to the airport from which the first flight departs and allows for adequate rest. It is not unusual for the pilot to use the airline passes, at free or reduced rates, to ferry to the point of origin. Passes do not entitle the pilot to a seat, rather the “ticket” is for an available seat and this uncertainty may result in an irregular journey with an arrival with inadequate rest before the work begins.

Lack of rest has been cited as a factor in the last major accident in the US. The ensuing debate rarely addresses whether the FAA jurisdiction should extend to the time before the work status begins. The union leaders will divert attention from this nexus. It is asserted that pilots are professionals and added regulation is not needed, REALLY?

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