New Airline Pilot Rest Rules Could Require More Pilots Be Hired

In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that reflects the universal nature of
pilot fatigue, the FAA on Friday announced a plan to fight crew fatigue at Part 121 carriers by setting new flight time, duty and rest requirements. The proposed rules would
be the same for all types of Part 121 flights (passenger and cargo airlines):
domestic, flag (international) or supplemental (unscheduled).


The result could force the airlines to hire many more pilots and require changes to all
pilots work schedules. The new rules also come at a time when most mainline carriers
are negotiating new pilot contracts which could need to be changed should all the
provisions of this rule become part of the final rule.

While the rule does not apply to Part 135 operators, FAA
Administrator Randy Babbitt explained that the Part 121 NPRM serves as notice
to unscheduled charter operators that “this could well be coming to your
neighborhood soon.” In addition to covering all types of Part 121 flight,
the NPRM also sets different requirements for pilots based on time of day and
number of scheduled flight segments, as well as time zones, type of flight and
likelihood that a pilot is able to sleep under different circumstances.

Under the proposal, pilots can decline an assignment without
penalty if they feel too fatigued to fly.

The rule would shave three hours from a pilot’s work
day, limiting it to 13 but could slide to nine hours at night depending on how
much time there is between the last flight and first flight the next day as
well as the number of segments scheduled. Instead of 100 hours every 30 days,
they would be limited to 100 every 28 days. Rest time would be increased to
nine hours from eight, while the time pilots must be free from duty is
increased from 24 to 30, an increase of 25%.

The impact will be most keenly felt by Regional Airlines whose
pilots fly numerous legs each day since many of the flight/duty time provisions
are already part of mainline pilot contracts.

The comment period is 60 days and, according to Congressional
mandate, a final rule must be published by 1-Aug-2011, a year after President
Obama signed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension
Act of 2010 in law.