Pilots, Airlines Unhappy With New Canadian Pilot Fatigue Rules

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

      Milt Isaacs, CEO of the Air Canada
Pilots Association

TFive years in the making, new rules on fatigue regulations for Canadian pilots have been unveiled. And it seems that no one is pleased.

The Safer Skies coalition, representing more than 8,000 passenger and cargo pilots across Canada, has expressed “profound disappointment” in the federal government for releasing aviation fatigue regulations that “do not fully comply with 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."

On the other side of the issue is John McKenna, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada, an industry lobby group that represents 35 airlines. 

He told The Globe and Mail: “We’re already facing a shortage of pilots in this country, and this is going to be pushing it even further.” McKenna says the new regulations will increase the number of pilots needed by 30% and that the resulting staffing crunch will be felt most acutely by small and medium-size airlines, which will see their pilots poached by larger airlines.

The proposed regulations would cut the number of consecutive hours pilots are allowed to fly from 14 to between nine and 13, depending on what time of day the flight takes off. They would also increase rest time for pilots between flights and reduce the annual number of hours pilots can fly to 1,000 from 1,200.

Despite those improvements, a union representing pilots has also come out slamming the new rules.


"Canada had some of the worst aviation regulations in the world and after seven years of consultation, we still have one of the worst regulations in the world in many areas," said Jerry Dias, National President, Unifor. "Nowhere else in the world can pilots fly as many hours in a day, week, and month with as little time off to recover as Canada. The government ought to use this opportunity to harmonize with international standards to strengthen protections for pilots and passengers."

Critics says the proposed regulations do not assign a maximum flight duty time that is based on science. 

The Safer Skies Coalition says the new maximum allowable time for long haul flights at night exceeds the hours recommended for pilots by NASA's Ames Research Center by up to 25%, and is higher than allowed by U.S. regs. 

“The physiology of a Canadian pilot is identical to that of an American pilot, and science does not support requiring Canadian aviators to endure longer duty periods. In fact, under these new rules, pilots in Canada will have the highest time at work in the world,” said a statement from the group.  

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