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Not Like Wine at All

July 14, 2016  By Fred Jones

Recently, Transport Canada (TC) released an update on the Flight Crew Fatigue Management issue. The thrust of the note was to inform the regulated community that TC intends to proceed directly to Canada Gazette I with new draft regulations in the spring of 2017.

Once they have received written comments during the 60-day period following publication, they will take a few months to do a Disposition of Comments, where they will analyze the comments and provide their justification for accepting or rejecting them. Once this is complete, they will publish the regulations in Canada Gazette II, and they will come in to force – but using a phased implementation – starting first with CAR 705 (airlines), which will need to be compliant 12 months after Gazette II publication.

CAR 703 and 704 operators will need to be compliant 48 months after Canada Gazette I publication (CAR 702 air taxi and CAR 604 business aviation have been excluded altogether). This means that the new regulations, if everything goes according to plan, would affect Canadian helicopter operators in 2022 at the earliest.

What the update did not describe is any of the substantive content of the draft regulations that are headed for Canada Gazette I. HAC maintains that the new draft regulations will be the same regulations that were tabled in the form of a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) in September 2014, modified in minor ways, “to reflect the concerns of the commercial aviation community,” articulated for TC by the national aviation associations and their members in a meeting that took place in January 2015.

We don’t expect to see any significant changes to the content of the September 2014 NPA affecting Canadian helicopter operators. I would be happy to be wrong, but my advice to all segments of the commercial aviation community is, “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst in spring 2017.” We do expect to see provisions that will allow for the establishment of a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS), “suitable for the size and complexity of the operation.”


These systems have the potential to allow for some relief from the very conservative prescriptive regulations. HAC supports the FRMS approach, but once a FRMS has been approved, the operator must be free to implement changes without seeking TC approval. The FRMS must also be “suitable for the size and complexity.”

In the five-year process, running up to TCs recent update, the views of CAR 703 and CAR 704 operators were rejected, in favour of recommendations that were more suited to the airline community. HAC maintains that what you will see in the spring 2017 are regulations “in the name of science” that will not respect the anchor points in the science or accommodate the operational realities of the Air Taxi and Commuter communities.

For example, HAC expects that the new draft regulations will erase the “zeroing” provisions of the current regulations; they will reduce the maximum tour-length to 21 days, including the time that it takes to move crews to and from the job site; and there will still be new cumulative duty time provisions, to name only a few. That is, the ugliest elements of the September 2014 NPA will survive to be published in Canada Gazette I.

It strikes this association as odd, that ICAO, in its Fatigue Management Guide for Airline Operations, at page 6 (a Guide for Helicopter Operations is under development), summarizes the science under four key principles:

  • Periods of wake need to be limited. Getting enough sleep (both quantity and quality) on a regular basis is essential for restoring the brain and body.
  • Reducing the amount or the quality of sleep, even for a single night, decreases the ability to function and increases sleepiness the next day.
  • The circadian body clock affects the timing and quality of sleep and produces daily highs and lows in performance capacity on various tasks.
  • Workload can contribute to crew member fatigue. Low workload may unmask physiological sleepiness while high workload may exceed the capacity of a fatigued individual.

HAC maintains that the Gazette I regulations that TC is planning to publish will stray well beyond these scientific principles and will include many elements that will be devastating to the commercial helicopter community in Canada.

Fred Jones is the president/CEO of the Helicopter Association of Canada and a regular contributor to Helicopters magazine.


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