DGCA Revises Pilot Duty Rules To Reduce Fatigue

The updated flight time duty rules extend pilots' weekly rest to 48 hours, redefine night duty and impose limits on the number of landings


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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has made significant changes to its regulations, with the goal of improving pilot rest periods and limiting nighttime cockpit hours. A significant provision requires airlines to provide quarterly data on pilot tiredness.

This decision by the authority comes after several complaints from pilots, who claimed that airlines took advantage of the agency's permissive guidelines to extend their working hours beyond established boundaries. In August, an IndiGo pilot died of abrupt cardiac arrest at Nagpur airport, just before taking off on a flight.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Civil Aviation Minister, confirmed that these modifications are consistent with worldwide best practices, putting India in a strong position to compete for the title of largest domestic aviation market in the coming years.  

Scindia also announced the upcoming introduction of a weariness Risk Management System (FRMS), which will use a data-driven method to better manage flight crew weariness.

The proposed guidelines, which are presently out for public comment, cut the maximum flight duty period for night pilots from 13 to 10 hours (12 AM to 6 AM). The DGCA allows a maximum of two landings during this time. The definition of night has also changed, now ranging from 12 AM to 6 AM rather than 12 AM to 5 AM.

Due to slot limits at metro airports, the number of "red-eye" flights, which leave at night and arrive the next morning, has increased dramatically in recent years.

For trips longer than 14 hours, the DGCA has limited the maximum flight time to 17 hours and required airlines to offer a minimum rest period of 120 hours after each journey. After two consecutive Ultra Long Range (ULR) flights, the rest duration increases by 24 hours.

Extensive conversations were held with senior DGCA officials, pilots, and airlines to ensure that these rules are practical in tackling developing difficulties in modern aviation. The regulator also took into account pilot feedback on the time required for tasks such as aircraft changing and formalities such as customs, immigration, and security checks.


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