With any job, work hours must be regulated to keep employees from overworking and keep employers from overworking them. When it comes to pilot work hours, it is critical that enough guidelines and rules are put in place to keep both pilots and the public safe.
Over the course of the past decades of aviation advancement, the Federal Aviation Administration, or the FAA, has continually evaluated and determined rules and regulations designed to address safety concerns, with a top priority on workable hours and pilot fatigue. In 2011, the FAA passed new rules adjusting the standards applied to domestic and international flights and scheduled and unscheduled flights. New guidelines eliminate distinctions between flights and enforce regulations on all flights. Airlines were given two years to implement the change with the requirements becoming effective in early 2014.
To deter fatigued pilots from flying, the FAA determined the definition for fatigue and set guidelines for how pilots are expected to rest and conclusively decided acceptable pilot flight times. Before we get to the rules and regulations, let’s define fatigue. According to the FAA, fatigue is a general lack of alertness and degradation in mental and physical performance. Fatigue could result in a pilot falling asleep during the flight or could impact readiness when landing.
In the 2011 proposal, the FAA set a nine-hour minimum for rest before flying related duty, one hour more than previously determined. The proposal also reduced duty time from 16 hour periods to 13 hour periods between rest. Here are a few changes to the FAA proposal made for pilot’s working hours and flight time.
- Weekly Flight Time – Before the 2011 proposal, pilots were given 24 hours free from all duty on a weekly basis. After the proposal, pilots were given a 25% increase to 30 hours off per week.
- Monthly Flight Time – Prior to 2011, a pilot could work a maximum of 100-hours in a 30 day period. After the changes, pilots could work a maximum of 100-hours in 28 days.
- Yearly Flight Time – The new rules changed the maximum limit of hours in a calendar year for domestic flights to apply to all types of operations making pilots limited to 1,000 hours per 365 days.