The US FAA has proposed a new raft of measures aimed at reducing the level of fatigue suffered by commercial pilots. The ‘duty time’ guidelines cover issues such as work schedules, start and end times, time-zones and flight types, as well as taking into consideration the likelihood of a pilot getting suitable sleep in the periods between duties. The proposals would also remove the distinction between regulations for international, domestic and unscheduled flights that are currently in place in the US, and introduce a full set of general regulations that would apply to all types of pilot.
If approved, the new guidelines could enter into force before August 2011.
“The proposal is a significant enhancement for aviation safety,” said Ray LaHood, US Transportation Secretary.
“I know firsthand that fighting fatigue is a serious issue, and it is the joint responsibility of both the airline and the pilot. After years of debate, the aviation community is moving forward to give pilots the tools they need to manage fatigue and fly safely,” added Randy Babbitt, FAA Administrator.
Fatigue is increasingly being viewed as a serious inhibitor to not just airline pilots, but drivers and other operators of vehicles and machinery, and it has been identified as the cause of many accidents, including the 2009 Colgan Air crash in America, which occurred on a domestic short-haul flight. It is acknowledged that fatigue can slow reaction times to a similar level as those experienced during alcohol or drug usage, underlining the severity of the issue.