The Part 135 Pilot Rest and Duty Rules Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) recently submitted its recommendations to the FAA, the culmination of almost three years of collaborative industry efforts.
The 20-member ARC was tasked with evaluating current rest and duty rules, reviewing previous industry recommendations for revisions, examining potential impacts on small businesses and the diversity of operations, and – perhaps most important – studying scientific and safety data related to fatigue. The ARC was to recommend new rest and duty rules if its analysis deemed them necessary.
“Our goal was to recommend updates to decades-old Part 135 rest and duty regulations to recognize the effects of circadian rhythm and cumulative duty time, among other variables, while considering the complexities of Part 135 on-demand operations,” said Kent Jackson, Jetlaw managing partner and ARC chair.
“Our goal was to recommend updates to Part 135 rest and duty regulations to recognize the effects of circadian rhythm and cumulative duty time.”
Kent Jackson Jetlaw Managing Partner and Part 135 Pilot Rest and Duty Rules ARC chair
“Existing rules do not take into account the science behind human factors and are too prescriptive. Science needs to be the driving force to ensure safe operations,” said Ashley Smith, president of Jet Logistics and an NBAA representative on the ARC. “We did not want another version of Part 117, the relatively new fatigue regulations directed at Part 121 operators. The Part 135 industry is different.”
The ARC’s report contains science-based recommendations recognizing a variety of Part 135 operations models. ARC members relied on fatigue science experts and studies on human fatigue to ensure a data-based approach. As part of its efforts, the ARC conducted a series of risk management exercises based on real-life Part 135 scenarios.
Some factors the ARC considered were the numbers of legs to be flown, duty hours and time zones crossed, the impact of circadian rhythms and start time of the duty day – all of which impact pilot performance and fatigue.
The ARC’s recommendations attempt to balance impacts vis-à-vis necessary improvements to rest and duty rules for different types of Part 135 operators – from air medical to overnight cargo to long-range passenger flights.
Not only did the ARC consider different types of operations, but, as Alex Beringer, COO of Fair Wind Air Charter and an NBAA representative on the ARC explained, the ARC was cognizant of the needs of potential future business models.
“We even recommended an opportunity for new types of operations to build their own rest and duty models by conducting fatigue risk-management processes and getting those models and mitigations approved by the FAA. We wanted to be forward-thinking, not just consider the needs of today’s operations.”
The FAA will consider the ARC’s recommendations as it develops proposed Part 135 pilot rest and duty rules, which will be published in the Federal Register for public comment.
Current Part 135 rest and duty requirements are outdated and overly prescriptive, with little consideration for the science of human fatigue on pilot performance.
NBAA and its member companies served on the ARC that is reviewing possible reforms. The association will continue to monitor the FAA’s progress in reviewing the ARC’s recommendations, but expects it to be several years before the FAA publishes any proposed rules.