Fighting fatigue

In Canada, where some years ago a 16 hour pilot duty time was considered safe, things have changed. Fatigue-related accidents and incidents has awakened authorities, who now announce that this particular hazard has to be a thing of the past. Although a 8 hour working day will remain a wet dream (for crew members), things have improved slightly. Within 2 to 4 years the new regulations will be implemented. As follows:

1200 duty hours per year will be reduced to 1000. 120 hours in any 30 consecutive days will be changed to 112 hours in any consecutive 28 days. 13 and 3/4 hour flight duty will be 9-13 hours depending on start time of day/ sectors flown (whatever that means).            A rest period of 8 hours in the bunk will be increased to 12 hours at home or 10 hours away from home.

Some slight changes in off duty time and night shifts per week might bring some, but limited, comfort, but all i all the comforting contribution to flight safety is the ambition – albeit not the result – by the authorities, to improve things. Now, since the authorities around the world are manned by people interested in flying but not qualified to fly planes – and thus not really interested in listening to what pilots have to say – things doesn’t get any better that this. And this is good compared to what airlines  outside Canada get away with.

If things are repeated in this blog it is simply because they have to be. Fatigue is a killer. Consequently the law (written by authority people) says in no uncertain terms: You may not fly under the influence of fatigue. That is a good law. It might have worked in the era before the dawn of low-cost airlines. Since most low-cost airlines do not allow pilots to be organized in unions – and often have pilots employed from manning companies, where you get paid for hours flown, and have zil job security, not being backed by a union, should you elect to follow the law and cancel a flight halfway to your destination, because you have experienced heavy delays and now fatigue is filling your forehead with pain – the sky will be filled with people to tired to talk to keep awake. Things might improve after a few more fatigue-related accidents.

There is a slight focus on cockpit crew here. It is just as bad for cabin crew. Contrary to popular belief they are not on bord to serve wet towels. They have ultimate responsibility in assisting passengers in case of any emergency. Too tired to think straight might severely hamper that ability.

If you read this – and is not a crew member – you might be surprised. Manning is a cost to managements. If you have to cut corners – which you have to, in order to reduce the price of a ticket to less than is necessary to pay for a totally safe operation, increasing duty hours (and reduce training) is the thing. As always, the only real truth (repeated) for a passenger is: you get what you pay for.


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