A Step in the Right Direction

New Flight-and Duty-Time Regulations Launch in Canada

By Christopher Freeze, Senior Aviation Technical Writer

On Dec. 12, 2020, new science-based flight time and duty time regulations went into effect for large air carrier (Subpart 705 operations) pilots in Canada, two years after they were published by Transport Canada. New regulations for pilots in commuter and air taxi operations, Subparts 704 and 703, respectively, will take effect in December 2022. The new rules reduce the maximum length of on-duty periods for pilots while adjusting pilot rest requirements, aligning Canadian rules closer with international standards.

“Canada’s flight- and duty-time regulations had been acknowledged by aviation industry experts as inadequate for ensuring that pilots are well rested when they fly,” said F/O Tim Perry, ALPA Canada president. “The implementation of these long-overdue changes is a direct result of more than a decade of effort by ALPA, which worked diligently to secure updated science-based flight- and duty-time regulations—one of the most important aviation safety issues for flight crews in Canada.

“There’s evidence that after 12 hours of work human performance begins to degrade exponentially,” remarked Perry. “Pilots who fly at night and land during morning hours can experience fatigue and impairment equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent. Legal action can be taken against drivers in Canada when the level is a little as 0.05 percent,” Perry added, referring to studies that equate fatigue impairment to the effects of alcohol.

ALPA has been vocal in its opposition to the creation of two classes of safety for the Canadian public and pilots through delayed implementation at smaller air carriers. Airlines operating aircraft with up to 19 seats have until December 2022 to comply with the new rules. “Two years was more than enough time for carriers of any size to adjust to the new regulations,” Perry noted.

“When the updated regulations were first announced in 2018, we were clear that they did not address all of our concerns and recommendations, but we acknowledge that they’re a significant improvement over the existing rules and will improve aviation safety in the long run,” Perry observed. “More importantly, these regulations are an essential step in the right direction toward aligning us with the rest of the world and, above all, improve safety for passengers and flight crews alike.”

The new rules cap the length of a duty day between nine to 13 hours for unaugmented pilots, depending on the flight’s duration, the number of segments flown during that day, and duty start times. Also amended were rest period requirements, which changed the time between duty periods from eight hours with added time for meals and transportation to now 10 hours in a suitable accommodation when pilots are away from their home base or up to 12 hours at their home base.

The new rules also reduce the annual flight-time limits from 1,200 hours to 1,000 and reduce the current moving 30-day flight time–limitation window to 28 days and cut that window’s hours from 120 to 112.

The new rules do allow for flexibility for airlines with unique operations to operate outside prescribed limits if they develop a fatigue risk management system (FRMS). Transport Canada noted that an air operator will only be allowed to operate flights under an FRMS if the operator can demonstrate that safety isn’t adversely affected. “ALPA must remain diligent to ensure that operators use FRMS as it was intended, which is to allow alternate ways of delivering an equivalent level of safety—not as a way of circumventing the rules that operators may not like,” said Perry.

“Looking ahead, we know we have a lot of work to implement and adjust to the new rules,” Perry noted. “While implementation in the early stages of the new regulations will be a complicated process, we’re prepared to navigate through any issues with the airlines and remain in regular contact with senior Transport Canada officials.”

To identify issues and concerns more quickly, ALPA has implemented the DART program to gather reports filed by members regarding the new flight-time/duty-time rules in Canada. Each report will be addressed by appropriate ALPA subject-matter experts, and the data will be tracked and cataloged to help answer future pilot questions and to support any positions ALPA may subsequently take as it works to resolve fatigue-related issues with operators or Transport Canada.

This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF)