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A Big Mistake

The flight and duty time issue continues to be a significant problem for the Canadian helicopter industry.


October 27, 2014
By Fred Jones

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The flight and duty time issue continues to be a significant problem for the Canadian helicopter industry. The Flight Crew Fatigue Management Working Group met for 43 days over the course of 18 months, and the Helicopter Association of Canada (HAC) and its operator-members were represented at every meeting.

Two years later, the silence from Transport Canada (TC) was deafening – until the draft Notices of Proposed amendment (NPAs) were tabled in the absence of any post-working group dialogue with affected industry stakeholders. The proposed amendments to our current flight and duty time regulatory structure were tabled on September 15. There were very few changes from the working group’s report’s recommendations, which were opposed in a joint submission by virtually every segment of the commercial and business aviation communities. Interested stakeholders have been given five weeks to comment before the NPAs were slated for Gazette I – and two years later for CAR 702 and 703 operators, they would come in to force.

The preamble to the NPAs is aggressively misleading: “These changes are supported by today’s fatigue science and are harmonized with changes introduced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).”

In fact, most of the proposed changes are not supported by the largely ambiguous fatigue-related science. Some of the changes to the current rules they are suggesting run contrary to accepted fatigue-related science. The removal of the “zeroing” provisions that exist in the current rules is only one example. Furthermore, the proposal is only harmonized with the FAA and European Aviation Safety Authority insofar as passenger-carrying airline operations are concerned. The Europeans and the Americans have not yet addressed this issue for other segments of their respective aviation communities.

The department has tried to connect the accident rate to fatigue-related issues using quantum leaps of logic. The reality is, that there are virtually no accidents where the Canadian TSB has found a causal link between an accident and pilot fatigue. In short, there is no safety case for these changes. This is, as-they-say, a “Solution looking for a problem.”

The preamble has reduced the “significant” impact on CAR 702 and 703 operations to: “Adjustments to schedules may be required.” This is a grossly misleading and incomplete assessment of the catastrophic impact of the new regulations on our industry segment and its customers. The comment also reveals a complete disinterest on the part of TC for the impact of the proposals on CAR 702 and 703 operators.

Some of the proposal’s “highlights” include:

  • New cumulative duty hour limitations of: 1,928 duty hours in 365 days; 190 duty hours in 28 days; 60 duty hours in 7 days
  • New cumulative flight time limits: 112 flight hours in 28 days (down from 140 in 28 days currently); 300 flight hours in 90 days (down from 450 in 90 currently); 1,000 flight hours in 365 days (down from 1,200 hours currently)
  • Time free from duty: 5 days off in 20 or 1 day off in 7
  • Maximum duty day 13 hours (but reduced further for early or late starts)

Compliance with the proposed new regulations would need to be demonstrated within 24 months post-Gazette II publication, for CAR 702 and 703 operators.

Finally, we know that there will be very vocal and visible opposition to the proposed rules from affected segments of the industry including customers and operators, but particularly from those serving our resource based economy; northern and remote operators and the communities they serve; aboriginal groups; and from virtually all operators notwithstanding the CAR 705 airline operators represented by NACC, who we believe will see the regulations moving closer to the terms of their collective agreements.

One of the strengths of our industry is the fact that our members operate in the four corners of Canada and as individual businesses, we often have the ears of our local MPs. There are not many issues that are as important to operators as the flight and duty time issue, and this may well be an issue running in to next year’s federal election.

HAC and its allied associations are urging TC to move forward by resolving the issues in the NPA as they relate to CAR 705 operations and to “get back to the table” with other segments of the commercial aviation community to find new industry segment-specific regulatory proposals that are better suited to the helicopter industry and others. HAC will be engaging in a formal advocacy campaign if TC continues to promote the regulations in their current form.


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