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ICAO Sets New Standard for Crew Fatigue Management

The Council of ICAO adopts new international standards for Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) as an alternative to prescriptive flight and duty limitations to address crew fatigue, often cited as a factor in aircraft accidents.

MONTRÉAL, 14 June 2011 – The Council of ICAO adopted at its meeting of 13 June, international standards for Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) as an alternative to prescriptive flight and duty limitations to address crew fatigue, often cited as a factor in aircraft accidents. The new standards become applicable on 15 December 2011.
“Current flight and duty time regulations are a „one size fits all‟ solution. FRMS recognize the growing complexity of crew fatigue and offer multi-layered, comprehensive approaches to various types of fatigue-related hazards, according to different operational contexts”, said Nancy Graham, Director of the Air Navigation Bureau of ICAO.
“Operators using FRMS have reported greater operational flexibility than current flight and duty time regulations, while maintaining, and even improving on, current safety levels. The new standards will facilitate the development and globally-harmonized implementation of the systems, while making it easier for regulators to assess and monitor their use,” Graham explained.
The FRMS standards are supported by extensive guidance material based on the input of an FRMS Task Force comprised of State regulators, operators, scientists and industry representatives. This includes an FRMS implementation guide for operators, jointly produced by ICAO, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots‟ Associations (IFALPA).
“The fact that regulators, airlines and pilots all contributed to the effort ensures that all of the technical, operational and economic issues were covered. The input of world-recognized scientists ensures that the FRMS approach has solid scientific grounding. We can look forward to widespread acceptance of the concept and its systematic application around the world,” Graham emphasized.
The new fatigue management standards allow States to choose whether to establish FRMS regulations. The provision of prescriptive flight and duty time limitations regulations remain mandatory for all States.
The new standards and related guidance material will be the focus of a symposium, followed by a meeting of the International FRMS Forum, to be held from 30 August to 2 September 2011 at ICAO Headquarters in Montréal.

My Commentary

The crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in 2009 was certainly a game-changer for the FAA and other civil aviation regulators around the world. Following that accident investigation, the FAA proposed some sweeping changes to their regulations concerning the work and rest schedule for flight crew.
Here’s a recap of some of the FAA proposals made last September:

Rest – The FAA proposes to set a nine-hour minimum for rest prior to flying-related duty, a one-hour increase over the minimum in current rules.

Flight Time

  • Weekly: Currently, pilots flying domesticallyare limited to 30 hours of flight time in any seven consecutive days. Those flying international operations are limited to 32 hours in seven consecutive days, and there is no seven-consecutive-day limit for supplemental operations. The proposal provides pilots with at least 30 consecutive hours per week free from all duty, compared to the current 24 hours free from all duty on a weekly basis – a 25 percent increase.
  • Monthly: Under the proposal, there is a 100-hour maximum for flight time in any 28 days. Current rules set a limit of 100 hours for every 30 days.
  • Yearly: There is a current limit of 1,000 hours in any calendar year for domestic flights. Under the proposal, all types of operations will now be limited to 1,000 hours per 365 days.

Duty Time – There is currently a 16-hour duty period between rest periods. The proposal would limit the daily flight duty period to 13-hours, which could slide to nine hours at night (depending on take-off time and number of segments scheduled).
With the recent spate of air traffic controllers found sleeping while on night duty, it’s time to revisit the regulations for them as well. I have a mouthful of ideas, but I’ll reserve them for another blog post. With that in mind, I’d love to hear some of yours so that I can incorporate them in a post dedicated to controller fatigue.

About Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, a career air traffic controller. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from around the aviation world. A post titled “13 Characteristics of an Air Traffic Controller” written in 2010 went viral and established me as the unofficial ambassador of ATC.

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