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Despite industry calls for additional consultation and review, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced on Dec. 12 that changes to Canada’s flight and duty time regulations have now been finalized.
A revised set of regulations was published in Canada Gazette II, which Transport Canada says will improve air travel safety for passengers and flight crews. It is the culmination of a regulatory process that was first initiated in 2015.
In a press release issued shortly after the regulations were posted, Transport Canada said the new changes to the Canadian Aviation Regulations introduce prescribed flight and duty time limits that respect modern fatigue science and international standards to limit the amount of time a crew member can be on the job.
In terms of flight time, a Transport Canada backgrounder explains the new regulatory limit is 1,000 hours in any 365 consecutive days (down from 1,200 hours). This is further broken down into a maximum of 112 hours in any consecutive 28-day period (down from 120 hours in 30 days and 40 to 60 hours in any seven consecutive days).
Duty time maximums have also been revised. Previous regulations allowed aerial workers and air taxi operators a 14-hour duty time, while commuter operations and airlines had a 13-hour, 45-minute duty time limit.
Now, regulations enforce a maximum nine- to 13-hour duty period across the board. The exact duty time will depend on the time of day a pilot must report for duty, as well as what sectors are being flown.
New Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMSs) have been introduced which “will allow operators the flexibility to set flight hours based on their unique operations if they can demonstrate that alertness and safety will not be affected.”
The FRMS is Transport Canada’s answer to industry objections that a “one size fits all” regulatory package will not work in a Canadian aviation industry composed of so many unique operations.
Time to prepare
The new package of regulations applies to all commercial transport operations in Canada, including major airlines as well as smaller regional operators.
Large airlines will have two years to implement necessary regulatory changes, while smaller operators have been given four years to comply.
Transport Canada indicated it would collaborate with northern and small operators during the implementation of the new regulations.
“Transport Canada’s new regulations align with today’s scientific data, international standards and best practices, and respond to concerns raised by communities, pilots and airlines,” said Garneau. “By providing air operators the option to implement Fatigue Risk Management Systems, these new regulations also recognize the unique operations and realities of Canadian air operators.”
Fit for duty
Changes are also being made to prohibit any flight crew member from working when they are not fit for duty.
Factors that render someone unfit for duty include the consumption of alcohol or drugs, mental and physical condition, and fatigue.
The previous eight-hour “bottle to throttle” cut-off has also been changed. Now, pilots may not work within 12 hours of consuming alcohol.
Transport Canada was scheduled to brief industry representatives on the new regulations at a Dec. 12 meeting.