CASA aims to improve regulation of crew rostering with introduction of data-based system

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is seeking industry feedback on proposals to replace the current system for regulating flightcrew duty times with a more scientifically based method of managing pilot fatigue. The move comes as the University of South Australia is half-way through a study of pilot fatigue, which has already discovered that existing assumptions about fatigue causes are flawed.

The new CASA system will be designed to enable a risk management-based programme for flightcrew rostering. The agency says it hopes to manage fatigue risk across the whole industry "in a more flexible manner, appropriate to the level of fatigue risk exposure and nature of the operation" by using a data-based fatigue risk management system (FRMS). Current flight time and duty period limitations have been criticised as complex, inflexible, lacking scientific basis and inappropriate for new types of operation.

The authority is seeking feedback on seven options by 8 October, including retaining the current regulatory requirements with exemptions; using more scientifically based prescriptive limitations; adopting another country's regulations; introducing an operator-developed FRMS; or allowing operators to choose to use new prescriptive limits or an operator-developed FRMS. The latter is CASA's preferred option.

CASA has already demonstrated the use of a fatigue management system in a trial with 21 general-aviation and low-capacity air transport operators last year. The participants supported the concept, although the costs involved and CASA's implementation processes were criticised. Setting up a sophisticated FRMS can cost between A$10,000 ($7,200) and A$50,000, says CASA. The authority expects to move to new arrangements within two to five years.

Any proposals to change air transport operations involving travel across time zones will not be finalised until the University of South Australia completes its fatigue study. The three-phase project involves collecting data on flightcrews' sleep patterns, reaction time tests to determine how quickly their body clocks adapt, and observing pilots in simulators to link real performance measures with predicted fatigue.

The university has completed the first phase. A final report on the second stage is due in December, while the simulator stage is due for completion in the middle of next year. Most fatigue models assume that body clock time is the most important driver, but the study has found this only accounts for 50% of the influence, with socially appropriate time to sleep driving the rest.



Source: Flight International