One universal regulatory issue, 3 CAAs: repetitive research?

FDT reg documents
Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Australia, Canada and US all issue new Flight & Duty regulations

Pilot Fatigue a Universal Issue?

Repetitive Studies v. Build on Prior

Transnational Regulatory Resource?

A Flight Safety Foundation paper stimulated a question: should there be a transnational resource of regulatory research, particularly as to rules of universal applicability?

Too Fatigued to Fly?

by FSF Editorial Staff | January 24, 2019

The Flight Safety Foundation, as usual, is the source of an informative article on safety of flight. This one posts a report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Fatigue Experiences and Culture in Australian Commercial Air Transport Pilots. FSF also notes The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority currently is consulting with industry representatives about introducing new fatigue rules in accordance with Civil Aviation Order 48.1, Instrument 2019, Modernising Australia’s Fatigue Rules.


The Foundation with its global reach then includes a link to New Fatigue Rules for Canadian Airline Pilots, which were published in December, 2018. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) of Canada supported[1] the new regulations put forth by Transport Canada.

“We’ve worked diligently to secure updated science-based, flight- and duty-time regulations which for years has been one of the most important aviation safety issues for flight crews in Canada,” said Capt. Dan Adamus, ALPA Canada president. “While the regulations announced today do not address all of our concerns and recommendations, they are a significant improvement over the current rules and will improve aviation safety.”

So that’s two countries which recently issued new Flight and Duty Time rules.

Sleep, fatigue, the duty to report for duty, the scientific research of this subject and the management techniques to address this risk DO NOT VARY BY GEOGRAPHY. Some jurisdictions are located so as to require longer flights as a percentage of flying, but the methods and parameters for assuring that a fatigued cockpit crew member does not fly.

To further emphasis the universality of fatigue, FSF included several of its recent studies on the subject:


Controlled Rest

Brief naps in controlled situations on the flight deck can be beneficial to managing fatigue,…

by Frank Jackman



Controlled Rest Document Published on FSF Website

Flight Safety Foundation has published on its website a document by the industry’s Fatigue Countermeasures…





All of which causes one to wonder, why does each CAA feel the need to study, research, re-study, re-research and beyond a subject already with a full record available?

The FAA– in a very transparent, very lengthy and very well publicized—started in 2010 a Rulemaking Proceeding which included every conceivable stakeholder, which received expert opinions from the leading scientists based on their state-of-the-art research and which was subjected to the fine parsing typical of such a contested process. In fact, the FAA received 8,000 comments from the general public.

The Federal Register required 75 pages of its tiny font to include all of the regulatory requirements, to cite all of the evidence presented, to review all of the comments and to explain the new rules. Here is the index for the major topics covered by the new Part 117:

Fitness for Duty

Fatigue Education and Training

Fatigue Risk Management System

Flight Duty Period—Unaugmented

Flight Time Limitations

Flight Duty Period—Augmented

Schedule Reliability

Extensions of Flight Duty Periods

Split Duty

Consecutive Nights


Cumulative Limits


Deadhead Transportation

The preamble of the Part 117  final rule made clear what the scope was:

“The rule recognizes the universality of factors that lead to fatigue in most individuals and regulates these factors to ensure that flightcrew members in passenger operations do not accumulate dangerous amounts of fatigue. Fatigue threatens aviation safety because it increases the risk of pilot error that could lead to an accident. This risk is heightened in passenger operations because of the additional number of potentially impacted individuals.”

In the body of the Federal Register text, there is a most instructive recitation of the remedies being implemented:

“This final rule addresses fatigue risk in several ways. The underlying philosophy of the rule is that no single element of the rule mitigates the risk of fatigue to an acceptable level; rather, the FAA has adopted a system approach, whereby both the carrier and the pilot accept responsibility for mitigating fatigue. The carrier provides an environment that permits sufficient sleep and recovery periods, and the crewmembers take advantage of that environment. Both parties must meet their respective responsibilities in order to adequately protect the flying public. The final rule recognizes the natural circadian rhythms experienced by most people that causes them to be naturally more tired at night than during the day. Under the final rule, flightcrew members will be able to work longer hours during the day than during the night. Significant changes in time zones, a situation unique to aviation, are accounted for to reduce the risk to the flying public posed by ‘jetlag’.


This is not to say that the FAA’s process and/or rules are superior. Knowledge is constantly expanding and subsequent work may identify new symptoms, diagnostic tools and remedies.

What is worth acknowledging is that aviation safety should be a subject of transnational regulatory cooperation. When CAA #1 announces a new rule with potential universal applicability, then CAAs #2- #n should begin its process with that policy foundation. Redundancy in research is a waste; refreshing and building on past, recognized regulatory actions advances safety efficiently.

[1] ALPA had been requesting TC to update the rules since 2012


Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Be the first to comment on "One universal regulatory issue, 3 CAAs: repetitive research?"

Leave a comment