Flight Time Limitations

EU OPS 1, Subpart Q - Flight Time Limitations

Following a critical review of Subpart Q, introduced in July 2008, the Air Safety Group is concerned at the ambiguities, inconsistencies, flaws and anomalies within the FTL scheme, as it is currently written. The scheme is incomplete in a number of important areas and is open to wide interpretations and individual National Aviation Authority rules. The scheme will not, in the Air Safety Group's opinion, prevent the onset of poor rostering practices and the onset of fatigue within a relatively short period of time. Neither will it prevent confusion as to the intent and application of the scheme. At the same time aspects of the scheme will disadvantage Operators.

It is gratifying to note that EU OPS 1 - Subpart Q, which became law in July 2008, was introduced with a non regression clause which ensures against any lowering of state FTL schemes current at the time where these are of a higher standard than Subpart Q. The UK's CAP 371 (4th Edition) will therefore continue as a Derogation and an acceptable means of compliance at least until the EASA Implementing Rules are introduced in April 2012. Meanwhile, the planned Scientific and Medical review of Subpart Q has now been completed and amendments to Q are now awaited and are being developed through the EASA Task 055 working group. Subpart Q, as mentioned, is far from complete, contains a number of fundamental flaws, inconsistencies and ambiguities and will need re-writing in order to resolve these issues and to fill in the most obvious omissions or 'black holes' in the scheme.

In future the Group would recommend a complete review of the EASA tendering for contract system (following the initial failure to attract any bidders for the Scientific and Medical Review) that instead should make use of industry and regulatory authority individuals to undertake such work, as is currently the method used by the FAA. Meanwhile, it is of concern to note that, despite having 18 months to prepare for the implementation of EU OPS 1 Subpart Q, a number of states have failed to meet the deadline and some pilots are continuing to be rostered in a way that appears to break the new EU law. The obvious question follows as to who is responsible in the event of a fatigue related accident?

Finally, it is recommended that the EU and/or EASA in future consider further developing the System for Aircrew Fatigue Evaluation (SAFE) Computer Rostering Program for mandatory use by all EU AOC Holders. It is also recommended that EU/EASA liaise with the FAA and ICAO in order to compile a common FTL scheme for world-wide use that should include hard/finite maximum Flight and Duty times and minimum Rest and Days off or at least an agreement to mandate the use of SAFE or equivalent computer program. Flight and Cabin Crew personnel are human beings and there are finite limits to the length of daily and cumulative flying and duty they can sustain over their careers. Without adequate rest and recovery time and sympathetic rostering practices, crews will undoubtedly become fatigued. This fatigue can be alleviated by use of a comprehensive rostering computer program on a world-wide basis, which will also serve to provide the long sought after 'Level Playing Field'. As mentioned elsewhere, the predicted world-wide shortage of Pilots and the continued expansion of airlines in the Gulf, India and China, once the current economic downturn has reversed, will tend to lead Operators to make full use of their flight crews right up to any legal maxima permitted. This will lead to fatigue unless the Regulatory Authorities oversight of such operations is of the highest standards and airlines practise the art of sympathetic, as opposed to legal, rostering. Evidence emerged recently of a crew becoming so tired that both pilots apparently fell asleep and overshot their destination. Fatigue Risk Management Systems will become essential for each operator to adopt in future to ensure that fatigue related accidents are avoided. It is feared, however, that shortages of both flight crews and maintenance crews in the future will inevitably lead to increasing commercial pressure to ensure that continued operations are completed at all costs. The increasing competition and shortage of crews may well lead to the delicate balance between Safety and Commercialism becoming dangerously biased towards the commercial aspirations of operators, in which case it will be even more important for flight crews to religiously follow Standard Operating Procedures and to bear in mind the following: -

Ten Basic Rules of Aviation Safety.

Over the years there have been countless accidents caused by Pilots who fail to comply with the basic rules of aviation safety. Here are those basic rules, apart from number one 'Fly the Aircraft', in no particular order: -

  1. Always ensure someone is flying the aircraft. Basic airmanship dictates that each pilot in the cockpit is fully aware at all times who, physically, is responsible for handling the aircraft.
  2. Always ensure both pilots are on the same wavelength and happy. By this I mean that both pilots should be fully aware of what is intended. Only in this way can one query a situation about which they might be unhappy. This can be difficult to achieve during a go-round when the handling pilot is concentrating on flying and the non-handling pilot has to do the checks, tell ATC, tell the passengers etc and eventually get up to speed as to where they are in the sky.
  3. Never try or say anything unusual in the cockpit. If you do intend to do or say anything out of the ordinary, brief your crew first. "Oh C.....!" exclaimed my co-pilot on one occasion, which sent the adrenalin pumping around my body wondering what on earth was the problem. "I've locked my keys in my car" he went on to say and couldn't understand why I punched him on the arm.
  4. If questioned about anything, assume the worst and check again. The Tenerife B747 runway collision was the classic here when one crew member in the KLM cockpit queried whether or not the runway was clear just prior to take-off to be told firmly by the Captain (incorrectly as it transpired) that it was. However positive you feel about something, if someone else queries it then check it again just to be sure and get him/her on the same wavelength and happy!
  5. Do the pre-flight preparation and the checks and drills slowly and methodically, and every time. Resist that feeling of complacency during that rush to get off on schedule (start earlier!), that whip around the cockpit switching everything on, the assumption the altimeters, flaps etc are on the right settings and so on. So many accidents have occurred and will continue to occur because the drills were not correctly carried out and the pre-flight preparation was rushed.
  6. Admit a human failing. If you (narrowly) got away with it, let people know, because the next pilot to fall into the same situation may not. Help build up the statistics and reports, which ultimately may serve to improve possible design failures or standard operating procedures etc.
  7. Check the fuel uplift and contents religiously. How many aircraft have run out of fuel? Remember, the only thing a fuel gauge in a cockpit can tell you for sure is that there either is, or is not, one fitted! Rarely, if ever, should one pass up the opportunity to re-fuel!
  8. Think about and follow the ATC clearance. How many aircraft have read back the correct clearance prior to take-off, got airborne, turned the wrong way and crashed? The moral is to think about the clearance and not just simply read it back immediately it has been received. One can easily say right but think left! Beware of relying too heavily on the Autopilot/throttles and understand the possibility that unauthorised use of mobile telephones onboard your aircraft have been proven to interfere with the aircraft systems.
  9. Concentrate throughout the flight. The human pilot must admit they are fallible and are likely to make any number of minor mistakes during each flight. The snowball syndrome being what it is, concentration is required throughout to forestall it, otherwise those minor errors do tend to snowball and a major error is suddenly on hand and it is too late to rectify. And finally,
  10. If you have landed safely following an emergency, STAY LANDED. Whatever you do, do not be tempted to get airborne again until the problem has been safely fixed. Why take a known problem back into the air - it is unlikely to heal itself!