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Fri, Dec 14, 2018

Canadian Fatigue Regulations Drawing Mixed Reviews

TSB Welcomes Changes, While Pilots' Union Has Concerns

The new fatigue rules released this week by the Canadian Minister of Transport are winning praise from some quarters, while others say the government stopped short real safety improvements.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said it is pleased to see that the Minister has taken action to address what it says is a key safety issue.

Since the early 1990s, the TSB has identified fatigue as a contributing factor or a risk in at least 34 air occurrences. In October 2018, the TSB issued a call to action by adding this key safety issue to its Watchlist 2018. More specifically, the TSB asked for updated flight and duty-time regulations, as well as for air operators to implement fatigue risk management systems suited to their specific operations. The new regulations and standards announced today are a significant step in addressing this key safety issue. We look forward to a timely implementation of the new regulations and continued strong action from both the regulator and industry to reduce the risks associated with fatigue in the air transportation industry.

Fatigue is also a key safety issue in the Rail and Marine transportation industries. The TSB calls upon the Minister to take similar steps to address the risks associated with fatigue in these other industries.

Air Georgian Limited released a statement supportive of the amendments to the Pilot Flight, Duty, and Fatigue/Rest times.

The carrier said that while no set of regulations can be expected to entirely address any one stakeholder's concerns, and Air Georgian has expressed their reservations about aspects of the regulations, the airline sees this amendment as a positive first step towards the inclusion of scientific research and evidence-based individual data into pilot fatigue management.

Air Georgian has been working closely with their pilots and Fatigue Science, a Canadian company offering the most advanced wearable technology available, to collect de-identified sleep data. This data has been collected over the past year and is establishing a sleep hygiene baseline for their fatigue program. This will allow Air Georgian to apply their expanding knowledge of human rest rhythms and the effects of fatigue as it specifically relates to the construction of fatigue-compliant schedules.

The carrier says they are improving their sleep analytics to better understand and apply the concepts of rest hygiene, fatigue-related risk, and how to best safely optimize pilot performance. The goal, working in collaboration with their pilots and Fatigue Science, is to develop a Transport Canada compliant Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) that will promote aviation safety and improved pilot sleep hygiene. The regulations announced today provide the necessary framework for their FRMS.

"There is increasing attention to the risks of flying while fatigued or at risk of becoming fatigued," says John Tory, VP Corporate Development, Air Georgian. "Today's regulatory amendment breathes energy into and provides an approval framework for Air Georgian's ongoing research into sleep hygiene, rest planning, and pilot fatigue cycles."

WestJet had a similar reaction. "The safety of our guests and our crew is of utmost importance," said Scott Wilson, WestJet Vice-President, Operations. "We welcome the Minister's announcement outlining the move to new flight and duty time regulations. Utilizing scientific principles on fatigue will provide prevention and mitigation while aligning with international standards and best practices."

As outlined in the new regulations, WestJet will work to implement the updated crew fatigue standards over the next 24 months.

But the Air Canada Pilots Association, the largest single pilot group in Canada representing more than 4,000 professional pilots across Canada who fly the vast majority of Canadian overseas flights, says it is is gravely disappointed that Minister Garneau and the federal government are moving forward with what union leadership says are substandard fatigue rules.

"To say that we are profoundly disappointed is an understatement. These substandard rules leave a two-hour gap between the maximum flight time for Canadian pilots flying at night, compared to what's recommended by NASA's Ames Research Centre, and two and a half hours longer than what U.S. pilots are allowed to fly," said Captain Matt Hogan (pictured), Chair of the ACPA Master Elected Council. "It is unbelievable that in the face of scientific evidence and international best practice our government expects pilots to fly two hours longer than what NASA says is safe."

The new rules will significantly impact Air Canada pilots flying for Air Canada Rouge, who will be subject to weaker fatigue regulations than on Air Canada's mainline. ACPA had proposed that measures be put in place to protect all pilots flying overseas long-haul flights at night.

"This is the first time in 20 years that Canada has updated its fatigue rules, yet here the government is delaying implementation until 2022 for smaller operators," said Milt Isaacs, CEO of ACPA. "The government's own statistics conclusively prove that it's these very pilots who need the most protection. It's unacceptable that they're forced to wait the longest for the new rules."

Almost every prescriptive limit set out in the government's regulations can be bypassed, thanks to the government's Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS). The government spent a decade developing these new rules, and operators now have a way to bypass the new regulations. By the government's own estimation, FRMS is expected to be implemented by operators on up to 20% of regulated flights, meaning that one fifth of flights would essentially have no effective oversight.

(Source: News releases)

FMI: www.bst.gc.ca, airgeorgian.ca, www.acpa.ca, www.westjet.com

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