FAA Issues Final Rule on Pilot Fatigue – Includes Sleep Related Components


Late last month, the FAA released its new flight and duty time rules for airline pilots. Designed to combat on-the-job fatigue, the rules take effect in two years.

The Department of Transportation identified the issue of pilot fatigue as a top priority during a 2009 airline Safety Call to Action following the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407. The FAA launched an aggressive effort to take advantage of the latest research on fatigue to create a new pilot flight, duty and rest proposal, which the agency issued on September 10, 2010.

A couple of sleep related components of this final rule for commercial passenger flights include:

10-hour minimum rest period: The rule sets a 10-hour minimum rest period prior to the flight duty period, a two-hour increase over the old rules. The new rule also mandates that a pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within the 10-hour rest period.

Fatigue Management: Required training updates every two years will include fatigue mitigation measures, sleep fundamentals and the impact to a pilot’s performance.  The training will also address how fatigue is influenced by lifestyle – including nutrition, exercise, and family life – as well as by sleep disorders and the impact of commuting.

The final rule has been sent to the Federal Register for display and publication. It is currently available at:http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/recently_published/media/2120-AJ58-FinalRule.pdf, and will take effect in two years to allow commercial passenger airline operators time to transition.

A fact sheet with additional information is at http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/

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