DGCA brings reforms to address pilot fatigue

News Excerpt:

The DGCA has introduced significant modifications to the regulations concerning Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) for flight crews.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA):

  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is the regulatory body in the field of civil aviation primarily dealing with safety issues. 
  • It is responsible for regulation of air transport services to/from/within India and for enforcement of civil air regulations, air safety and airworthiness standards. 
  • It also co-ordinates all regulatory functions with International Civil Aviation Organisation. 
  • The headquarters are located in New Delhi with regional offices in the various parts of India.
  • It is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Key points of revised FDTL regulations: 

  • Extended Weekly Rest Periods: The revised regulations now require an increase in the weekly rest periods for flight crew from 36 to 48 hours. This adjustment aims to provide ample time for recovery from cumulative fatigue.
  • Night Duty Definition: The definition of the night duty period has been updated to span from 0000 to 0600 hours (previously 0000-0500 hours). This change aligns with the window of circadian low (WOCL) from 0200-0600 hours, enhancing rest during the early morning hours.
  • Maximum Flight Time and Duty Periods During Night Operations: The regulations now impose limits of 8 hours for maximum flight time and 10 hours for duty periods during night operations, ensuring operational safety and addressing concerns related to fatigue.
  • Restriction on Number of Landings: In night operations, the revised regulations impose a restriction on the number of landings to two, promoting enhanced flight safety measures.
    • The updated FDTL regulations are effective immediately, and airline operators must comply with the revisions by June 1, 2024. 

Why changes are being introduced:

  • As per the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the DGCA employed a data-driven methodology, gathering and analysing comprehensive pilot schedules and fatigue reports provided by airline operators. 
  • The examination pinpointed critical factors contributing to fatigue, including the maximum flight duty duration, night shifts, weekly rest intervals, and extensions of the flight duty period.
  • The updated FDTL regulations have been formulated through a thorough analysis of data and input from various stakeholders, such as airline operators, pilot associations, and individuals
  • Additionally, insights from international best practices observed by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, USA) and EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) have influenced the revisions, taking into account the specific operational context of India.

Way forward: 

  • Requiring quarterly fatigue report submissions from all airline operators under a non-punitive and confidential framework reflects a commitment to fostering transparency and understanding the challenges faced by the industry. 
  • The DGCA's vision includes adopting a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) and leveraging a data-driven approach to monitor and report flight crew fatigue. 
  • These initiatives collectively underscore the DGCA's dedication to enhancing safety standards and ensuring the well-being of flight crews within the aviation sector.


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