The FAA recently published a “new” interpretation of 14 CFR 135.267, “Flight time limitations and rest requirements: Unscheduled one- and two-pilot crews”. This should also be known as a “same [stuff], different day” interpretation.
The requestor presented the FAA’s legal folks a “hypothetical” scenario in which a pilot finishes assigned duties on a Wednesday at 2200 Eastern Standard Time, at which the pilot’s rest period starts and continues until 0800 EST on Thursday. After this 10-hour rest period, the pilot isn’t called to report for duty until he/she receives a “2 hour callout” on Friday morning at 0200 EST for an 0400 EST flight. The requestor called this a “rolling rest” policy and asked if it was compliant with 135.267.
The FAA answer: This policy would not meet the requirements of 135.267. Why? For a rest period to be valid, it must be three requirements. It must:
- Be continuous*
- Be free of responsibility to the air carrier
- Be prospective (that is, the start and stop time are known to the pilot in advance)
*Note: There is a one-call exception, in which the air carrier may attempt to contact the pilot and the call does not invalidate the rest period.
The rolling rest concept described above violates #3 – the pilot does not know when the rest period ends
Here’s the inconvenient truth: This isn’t a new interpretation of rest. The FAA has been interpreting rest this way for years. If you haven’t heard the three requirements above, you’re a little late to the party.
What’s different and interesting (read: terrifying – to some operators, anyway) about this rest interpretation compared to previous ones is who wrote the request for interpretation and some ancillary questions included in that request.
A pilot – presumably one who flies for a Part 135 operator – requested the interpretation and the pilot asked why FAA inspectors routinely allow companies to violate this rule.
Some Part 135 operators I’ve talked with are concerned their pilots would write a request for interpretation like this one and inadvertently (or purposely) expose potential noncompliance within the operator’s policies and procedures. Other operators have already received notice from their inspectors to get their house in order because this interpretation points to some inspectors’ tacit approval of noncompliance in this area. Now inspectors might be afraid their oversight of Part 135 operators will come under scrutiny.
The initial panicked reaction of the industry seems to be, “Oh my goodness! Now I need two full crews for every aircraft we operate! It’s the end of the world as we know it!”
Calm down. No, no you don’t need two crews. You do need to consider some creative and practical solutions.
Think about the scenario above and put yourself in the pilot’s shoes. If you went to bed at 2200 or 2300 on Thursday, probably an average adult bedtime, how prepared are you to wake up at 0200 and be ready to fly at 0400 on Friday morning? Okay, so you think pilots have it really good and just whine too much. Do you want your spouse, children, or parents flying with a pilot who had 3 hours of sleep? I don’t want my dog on that airplane. Yet for some Part 135 operators, this rolling rest concept is the norm.
That said, many Part 135 operators do NOT operate this way. Their policies and procedures might not meet the exact requirements of the regulations but they are practical enough not to ask a pilot to fly on 3 hours of sleep as a standard practice. A lot of Part 135 operators are probably closer to compliance than they think and just need to tighten up and more clearly document their flight and rest procedures.
So if your policies and procedures aren’t quite in compliance, what do you do? There are a number of ways to ensure compliance. One is to establish a standard rest period for all crewmembers. Set this time to coincide with your lowest flight activity, say 2000-0600 every day. That’s the “standard” rest period – not guaranteed to be the same every day; of course, there will be times the operator needs to adjust that rest period to accommodate flight requests. The appropriate means of compliance will depend on the operator’s flight profiles, existing policies and even company culture.
Any time you revise a policy a significant as this one, be sure to:
- Document the change in appropriate manuals (GOM, flight control/dispatch/scheduling, etc.)
- Train appropriate staff (pilots, flight controllers/dispatchers/schedulers, CUSTOMER SERVICE/SALES!)
- Consider advising your clients, particularly aircraft owners who frequently fly Part 91 on their own aircraft but offer it for charter sales as well
Assume your inspector has read this interpretation too and be prepared to explain how your organization meets the requirements.
Work with a consultant or aviation attorney who specializes in Part 135 regulations to develop policies and procedures appropriate to your operation.
(This week’s post was supposed to be about how and when to request a legal interpretation from the FAA. This rest interpretation is too important to put off another week so I’ll get to legal interpretations in general in the next post.)