FAA releases final rule on pilot fatigue

January 4, 2012

Washington – The Federal Aviation Administration released a final rule (.pdf file) on Dec. 21 aimed at addressing pilot fatigue by decreasing pilots’ maximum on-duty time and increasing their minimum rest time.

The new rule comes partly in response to National Transportation Safety Board pilot-scheduling recommendations issued after an investigation into a February 2009 airline crash near Buffalo, NY, that killed 50 people. Pilot fatigue is a suspected factor in the crash.

According to an FAA fact sheet on the new rule, changes include:

  • Maximum flight duty time will decrease to nine to 14 hours, depending on a pilot’s start time and the number of flight segments scheduled.
  • The minimum rest period will increase by two hours to 10, with a mandate that pilots must receive eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within that time period.
  • Pilots must have at least 30 consecutive off-duty hours weekly, compared with the previous 24-hour minimum.

The new regulations will take effect in two years to allow commercial airlines time for transition, according to the fact sheet.