To beat pilot fatigue, DGCA raises weekly rest from 36 to 48 hrs | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

To beat pilot fatigue, DGCA raises weekly rest from 36 to 48 hrs

By, New Delhi
Jan 09, 2024 05:32 AM IST

India's aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has announced new measures to address concerns of pilot fatigue. Pilots will now be required to have a 48-hour break at the end of a work week, up from the current 36 hours. The definition of night duty has also been expanded by an hour, and maximum flight duty hours have been reduced for pilots working in night operations. The DGCA said the changes are in line with international best practices and will come into effect by June 1. The regulator will also require airline operators to submit quarterly fatigue reports.

Pilots will need to be given a break for 48 hours at the end of a work week, up from 36 hours at present, India’s aviation regulator said on Monday, expanding the mandatory rest period as part of several measures aimed at addressing growing concern of fatigue among flight crew.

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The measures come at a time when the industry, in India, is grappling with a shortage of human resources, which has, according to pilot unions, led to them being overworked.

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Among the new steps is also expanding the definition of night duty by an hour (now till 6am from midnight), and capped the maximum flight duty hours to 10 hours from the existing 13 hours for pilots working in night operations.

“These changes — that are very much in line with international best practices — will ensure India has the necessary arsenal, as it prepares to clinch the largest domestic aviation market title in the future,” civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a post on X.

The directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) said the new flight duty time limitations (FDTL) rules will come into effect by June 1.

The new FDTL also reduces the maximum number of landings allowed for a pilot on night operations to be reduced from six to two, and the regulator will also mandate all airline operators to submit quarterly fatigue reports.

Scindia said in his post the changes were based on “in-depth analysis of pilot rosters, fatigue-related reports and direct feedback from pilots”.

“In addition, we will soon transition towards a new regime of fatigue management i.e. Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS), which will be a data-driven approach to enhance monitoring of flight crew fatigue,” the minister wrote.

The DGCA statement said FRMS was a data-driven approach to enhance monitoring and reporting of flight crew fatigue and would require the collaboration of various aviation stakeholders to implement stringent monitoring, record keeping and reporting.

The issue of pilots’ fatigue was highlighted after consecutive incidents of pilot deaths: these were in LATAM airline of Latin America, Qatar Airways and IndiGo, in incidents spread over several months.

The IndiGo pilot, who died on August 17, had two consecutive night shifts which meant he operated a red-eye flight and an early morning flight.

“With the rest hours of pilots going up, either the number of flights get reduced or the number of pilots requirement goes up. However, the revised rules need to be thoroughly studied before commenting on them,” an airline executive said, asking not to be named.

The Airlines Pilots’ Association of India (ALPA) had written to pilots regarding the urgent need of a mega body of Indian pilots.

Captain Sam Thomas, president of Airline Pilots Association (India), said that the revised norms were in the right direction but would not suffice to improve the condition of pilots. “For the duty time limitations to be really effective, there needs to be a systemic change. While the DGCA had approached the pilots’ unions, none of the suggestions appear to have considered it.”

DGCA said the revised regulation was a stepping stone towards FRMS implementation in India.

“As of now, airlines ignore the fatigue reports. Once FRMS is taken seriously by airline operators, a lot of changes will come,” an airline pilot said.

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    I am a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. I track the aviation and railways ministry. I also write on travel trends. I cover the beats at the national level for the newspaper. Before being in Delhi, I have worked as a journalist in Mumbai as well. My hobbies include trekking and travelling.

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