New Flightcrew Member Duty and Rest Requirements attract the same level of Controversy as the old Flight and Duty Time Regulations

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Federal Aviation Administration
14 CFR Parts 117 and 121
[Docket No. FAA–2012–0358]
Clarification of Flight, Duty, and Rest
AGENCY: Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA), DOT
ACTION: Clarification


The ancient regulatory rule, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they stay the same”), was just reaffirmed in the above Federal Register notice.

The flight, duty and rest regulations, contained in Subparts Q, R, and S, for FAR Part 121 passenger operations, were among the most contested of the FAA’s regulations with literally hundreds of AGC-1 opinions. Lengthy, well crafted interpretations explored the nuances of words, the meaning of punctuation and the safety intent inherent in these work rules.

In an effort to enhance safety and to create clearer, less contentious rules, the FAA initiated a long, complicated rulemaking which resulted in a new Part 117 (‘‘Flightcrew Member Duty and Rest Requirements’’ (77 FR 330), which consumed 73 pages of 12 point Times New Roman print. New scientifically justified parameters were defined and more easily controlled standards were defined.

As noted in the most recent Federal Register notice (cited above), numerous requests for clarification were made by, among others, A4A, ALPA, RAA, SWAPA, APA, individual carriers and individuals. The FAA has issued the first (of presumably many) response to these inquiries.

The agency interpretations were published last week and the document is 14 pages long and responds to 57 separate questions. Clarifications as to the meanings of deadheading, reserve, sleep opportunity, FDP, etc. were requested and answered. Basic questions like the applicability of prior interpretations of the old Flight & Duty Time rules or the applicability of the new Part 117 to Flight Attendants (only if the flight attendant meets the following definition “Flightcrew member means a pilot, flight engineer, or flight navigator assigned to duty in an aircraft during flight time.”)

Each of the questions and each of the answers depend on the specifics of the facts posed and the applicable regulation. Even ALPA, an organization which posed many of the inquiries, offered no generalizations. The controversy which the old rules attracted has not been vitiated by the new rules. The regulation of work rules, whether wrapped in the science of fatigue, will always engender controversy and so long as the FAA issues the rules, they will have to adjudicate them.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

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