The incident investigation report of a Sunwing B-737 in Belfast (EGAA, 2017) brings once again a perennial problem ever so neglected by Canadian authorities. The flight was operated by a Canadian crew. Soon, I will discuss the reported aspect and procedures for take-offs using reduced thrust. What strikes my mind this morning when reading the press, is our transport minister Marc Garneau perpetuating traditional Canadian governments, all political parties confounded, they are! The issue mentioned by the media was pilot fatigue. The minister refused to comment the issue. One would hope it is because his ministry is about give birth to new CAR’s (Canadian Air Regulation) and would not wish to impede work by the experts rather than his ignorance of scientific reality of the industry.
Since 2010, yes 8 years ago, the Canadian government took the endeavor to update pilot fatigue rules. The law upon which Canadian aircrew base their flight safety were written in an era where one could drive his convertible with no seat belts and a beer bottle between the knees, literally. Canada, proud member of the G7, has the most permissive and liberal – no pun intended – flight duty times in the world, not the western world, THE world.
Obsolete Canadian rules
In Canada, aircrew are allowed to fly (not work duty, fly) 1200 hours per year. Our neighbors south of the 49th are permitted to fly 1000 hours, in Great Britain 900 hours, France 935, and so on. Our American colleagues require a third pilot to cross the Atlantic when flights exceed 8 hours. Not in Canada, we happily power on with 2 pilots in the middle of the night at a time were the body argues otherwise.
The high drag energy attached to our rule makers feet to modernise our CAR’s is simple: money not science. Why would an enterprise reduce the workload of employees? One figures out this issue as simply industrial relations. Really? By a not so recent NASA study, 75% of aircraft accident investigation reports include pilot fatigue a major contributing factor. The question needs to be asked: shareholders or passengers? Science based air crew duty rules have been in existence for more than a decade and lead to improved flight safety without touching financial bottom lines. By the way, the cost per hour of a competent flight crew per seat of an airliner is an absurdly small amount, less than 3$ per seat.
Are pilots humans?
Our government and perhaps most governments think of us aircrew (humanoids) as switch on, switch off commodities. Flying duty is one thing. They refuse publicly to consider that aircrews require, as a common example, to take long bus rides (over an hour) in London’s morning trafic and then to undertake it’s infinitely long security procedures to get to their aircraft. Nope, that is not duty time. The duty begins an hour and 15 minutes prior pushback and ends 15 minutes after engine shutdown. What happens after that time is not accounted. Rest periods you ask? They all know that a minimum 9 hours and 15 minutes is copious to get rest away from home. This time is essentially accounted from engine shutdown! Never mind transport, the dental floss, the more than necessary exercise et all. Hungry? Try the vending machine from the airport hotel located on the airport’s approach path. They expect an aircrew to jump in bed and sleep upon pillow touchdown. All of this not once per month but all the time on a very repetive schedule.
Let’s give the minister, a well educated person, a chance to come out with those long awaited CAR’s update. But somehow my GPWS (adapting the acronym as you wish) is screaming otherwise. The political party and financial district have other intentions. I will be more than joyous to retract myself.