DGCA for safer skies, airline operators to adopt FDTL regulations before June 1

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In what could come as a much sought relief to fatigued airline crews crisscrossing the busy sky, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is in the process of implementing a fatigue management system that would help relieve the flight crew of exceptional stress prone working schedule.
In a recent tweet by Union minister for Civil Aviation and Steel Jyotiraditya Scindia, reference to a bunch of much-awaited reforms in Flight Duty Time Limitations for the pilots was made.

The minister stated ‘After in-depth analysis of pilot rosters, fatigue-related reports and direct feedback from pilots, we have introduced revised “FDTL Regulations” that include, increased rest periods, redefining night duty, and regular fatigue reports to be shared by airlines.’

He further tweeted, ‘In addition, we will soon transition towards a new regime of fatigue management i.e. Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS), which will be a data-driven approach to enhance monitoring of flight crew fatigue.’

These changes — that are very much in line with international best practices — will ensure India has the necessary arsenal, as it prepares to clinch the largest domestic aviation market title in the future, the minister announced.

Airline operators required to comply with revised regulations by June 01, 2024

As per official reports, the DGCA has made significant changes in regulations pertaining to Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) for flight crew which is in line with existing international best practices, in practice for managing fatigue related aviation safety risks for more over a decade.

Considered as a substantial step forward in addressing pilot fatigue, enhancing overall flight safety and balancing it with the projected growth of the aviation sector in India, the introduction of these reforms in civil aviation sector would help in doing away with risks. The revised FDTL regulations are effective forthwith and the airline operators are required to comply with the revised regulations latest by June 01, 2024. This will ensure sufficient time for the airline operators to adapt to the changes while taking into account the logistics, system changes and consequential arrangements arising out of the amendments in revised FDTL regulations.

DGCA collects, analyzed pilot rosters along with pilot fatigue reports

To address and mitigate concerns on pilot fatigue through a data driven approach, DGCA extensively collected and analyzed pilot rosters along with pilot fatigue reports submitted by airline operators. Based on its study and analysis, some key areas inducing fatigue such as maximum Flight Duty Period, Night Duty, Weekly Rest Period, Flight Duty Period Extension etc. were identified. The revised FDTL regulations have been formulated after extensive data analysis and feedback from various stakeholders which includes airline operators, pilot associations and individuals. The world-wide best practices (FAA – USA and EASA – EU) have also been taken into consideration in amending the regulations while keeping in mind the specific operating environment in India.

Key Highlights of revised FDTL regulations

Extended Weekly Rest Periods for flight crew: The revised regulations mandate increased weekly rest periods from 36 hours to 48 hours for flight crew, thus ensuring sufficient time for recovery from cumulative fatigue.

Night Duty: The definition of night has been amended which now covers the period of 0000-0600 hours in the revised regulations vis-à-vis the period of 0000-0500 hours under the previous regulations. This enhancement of one hour during early morning will ensure adequate rest and also align the night duty period which encompasses Window of Circadian Low (WOCL) from 0200-0600 hours i.e. the time during which the circadian body clock cycle is at its lowest in terms of alertness.

Max. Flight Time, Max. Flight Duty Periods, Number of Landings during night: The revised regulations have taken into consideration different types of operations across time zones. The maximum flight time & maximum flight duty period for flight operations encroaching night have been restricted to 8 hours flight time and 10 hours flight duty period respectively and the number of landings have been limited to only two landings as compared to maximum permissible 6 landings under previous regulations during night operations, thus enhancing flight safety.

Airline operators to submit quarterly fatigue reports

In addition, DGCA has mandated that all airline operators shall submit quarterly fatigue reports after analysis, including the Action Taken on such reports. Further, it has been stipulated that the fatigue reports shall follow a non-punitive and confidentiality policy.

Fatigue Risk Management System to crew fatigue

DGCA further envisages to the adoption of a new regime of fatigue management i.e. Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) going forward. The revised FDTL regulation is a stepping stone towards FRMS implementation in India. FRMS is a data-driven approach to enhance monitoring and reporting of flight crew fatigue. The collaboration of various aviation stakeholders such as regulator, airline operators, flight crew etc. will be required to implement stringent monitoring, record keeping and reporting to ensure adherence to a FRMS regime in future once the readiness to transition to the FRMS framework has been diligently demonstrated by all stakeholders.

YEAR-WISE NUMBER OF ACCIDENTS

Year Scheduled

Operator

Nonscheduled

Operator

Flight Training Institute Government

Operator

Private

Operator

Foreign

Operator

Total Accidents
2017 1 3 2 1 0 1 8
2018 1 4 3 0 0 0 8
2019 1 4 5 0 0 0 10
2020 2 1 3 1 0 0 7
2021 4 2 2 1 NIL NIL 9
2022 1 2 7 1 1 NIL 12

Source: Directorate of Air Safety, DGCA

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