The newly proposed rules meant to minimize pilot fatigue in Canada have been met with severe criticism from both the pilots unions and the airline industry. The two sides have their beef with the rules for different reasons, as it seems. While industry representatives fear a pilot shortage to stem from the new rules, pilots themselves claim that the new legislation is insufficient to increase safety.
“Many of the specific new requirements penalize our industry that already has one of the best safety records in the world,“ Air Transport Association of Canada announced in an official release.
The federal regulations proposal published on June 30, seeks to decrease the number of consecutive flight hours from 14 to a number between nine and 13, which would depend on the time of day the flight takes off. The rules would also affect the rest time pilots are obliged to take between flights, as well as decrease the number of hours of flying that could be performed by a pilot per year. At the moment Canada permits up to 1200 annual flight hours. If the regulations take power, this number would drop to 1000, similar to what it is in the majority of other countries.
“We cannot take chances when it comes to flight crew members whose judgment and performance could be impaired“, Marc Garneau, Canada‘s Minister of Transport, said in an official statement. "The proposed rules will limit the amount of time a crew member can be on the job, and help operators manage fatigue risk in order to better protect Canadians. By aligning our regulations with the latest scientific findings and international standards, Canadian travellers can be confident that flight crews onboard their planes are fit for duty.”
The reduction, while a step towards international standards, is seen as insufficient by some members of the pilot community. The science, quoted by the Ministry of Transport, is also being met with disapproval.
“The Safer Skies coalition is profoundly disappointed by the government’s new aviation regulations. The measures fall far short of established science. The government’s position represents a missed opportunity to significantly improve passenger safety for Canadians,” said Milt Isaacs, CEO of the Air Canada Pilots Association. “NASA’s recommendation of no more than 10 hours of duty time at night (8.5 hours of flight time) is quite clear, and yet the government has ignored facts and science (published by NASA and Transport Canada’s own scientific advisor) in favour of regulations that favour operator commercial concerns over a recommended margin of safety for passengers and crew.”
The new regulations also seek to introduce a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS), which will allow air operators to adapt policies, procedures and practices to manage fatigue risk in an operation. However, as The Safer Skies coalition, representing more than 8,000 passenger and cargo pilots across Canada, points out the proposed system is flawed, as it the scientific basis for it is not clear, and it would not require independently verifiable data.
“The system will allow operators to place commercial considerations ahead of safety concerns, thereby creating an unacceptably low margin of safety for Canadian air passengers and for those communities and neighbourhoods near airports,“ Safer Skies coalition says in its latest press release.
The Ministry of Transport encourages Canadian citizens, industry representatives, and flight crews to provide feedback on the draft regulations until September 29, 2017.