Oh, for a Good Night's Sleep

By By Ross Detwiler rossdetwiler@gmail.com
Source: Business & Commercial Aviation

And consider the crewmember whose schedule complies with all the world's science and knowledge regarding rest periods. Nevertheless, if the night passes fitfully and sleepless, that pilot will feel as though pulled through a keyhole at show time. And should the pilot report of fatigue and the trip is rescheduled for 12 hr. later as a result, it's unlikely that sleep will follow with the whole crew now standing by. If the pilot did nod off, what would be the condition of the rest of the crew that was left waiting for the weary member to get rested? Airlines may have additional crew members they could plug into the manifest, business flight departments do not.

With this in mind, let's consider the new rules when compared to some scenarios I've experienced.

Our crew departed via commercial airlines from New York's JFK International to Athens. We were to crew a trip from Athens to Singapore, then Hong Kong, Tokyo, Fairbanks and “over the top” to London. We stopped for 36 hr. of crew rest in Athens before assuming control of the flight as it arrived from New York. Our eastbound routing allowed us to reach Singapore about an hour sooner and with one less tech stop than going through Anchorage.

We based our two-pilot duty day rule of 14 hr., night or day, on the fact that the FAA then allowed supplementals to schedule 16 hr. of duty for normal crew and 30 hr. for an augmented crew.

The new FAA charts define all scheduling possibilities in terms of an “acclimated crew,” which is one that has been in theater for 72 hr. or 36 hr. free from duty. We were acclimated to Athens.

Our two-pilot crew would, under FAR 121, now be allowed only 9 hr. of flight and 13 hr. of duty, based on a 0700 Athens report time. We flew 10 and half hours and had a 13.5-hr. duty day. The new rule requires three pilots for 13 hr. of flying and four pilots for 17 flight hours. As we would still be flying under FAR 91, we probably wouldn't change that part of the trip.

It takes 36 free hours to become acclimated to a time zone. However, if a crew is not acclimated, the pilots must have at least 10 hr. of rest allowing for 8 hr. of sleep during the period 0100-0700 in the time zone for which they are acclimated.

This often works for airlines because when a crew arrives, they can be off duty until the same flight arrives a day or two later. We landed in Singapore at midnight and arrived at the hotel at about 2 hr. later. We reported back for duty at 2 p.m. the next afternoon. As the day before had not been “extended” or during a circadian low period in our acclimated time zone, we did, in fact get the 10 hr. off with rest during the 0100-0700 time (Athens). When we reported for duty the next day at 2 p.m. and flew on to Hong Kong, we were good according to the new rules.

We were in Hong Kong for two nights and well over 36 hr. An evening trip to Tokyo with 24 hr. off was followed by a 17.5-hr. duty day, starting at 2300 (acclimated Hong Kong/Tokyo time) through Fairbanks to London. We picked up a third pilot and second flight attendant in Fairbanks and kept ourselves within an 18-hr. day, our limitation. Being Part 91 and picking up an “acclimated” pilot in Fairbanks who reported for duty at 1500 local, this operation, I feel, could be justified for us, but not for a Part 121 carrier.

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