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Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201400090
Date reported 23 October 2015
Concern title The operator’s flight crew are required to travel back to their base after a simulator training session. This results in duty times extending to over 11.5 hours plus waiting time in some cases
Concern summary

The concern related a recent change in policy which now means the operator’s flight crew do not receive a rest night after a simulator ride. This means that flight crew based in Perth will often be on duty for a minimum of 11.5 hours plus any time they spend waiting at airports.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Air transport
Concern subject type Aviation: Flight crew

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern in relation to how the management are interpreting the flight crew roster and duty limits contained in the CAO 48 exemption section of the operator operations manual - General Operating Policy and Procedures.

Contained in this document are the following relevant definitions:

2.3 Duty: Any task (including positioning) that a flight crewmember is required to carry out associated with the business of the operator.

2.4 Duty period: A period which starts when a flight crew member is required by an operator to report for a duty, until the flight crew member is free of all duty.

3.11 Duty Time Factoring: In determining cumulative duty limits, duty time which involves simulator training and training flights (excluding line training and line checks) is to be factored by 1.5.

2.9 Flight duty period: A period which starts when a flight crew member is required by an operator to report for a duty period in which flight as an operating crew member is undertaken, and finishes not less than 15 minutes after the end of at the block time in the final flight as an operating crew member.

The reporter has advised that recently the operator has changed the duty when a pilot from a base station is required to travel to Brisbane for simulator training. The overnight rest period in Brisbane after the simulator training has been removed and pilots are now expected to conduct their simulator training, travel directly to the airport and back to their base without a rest period. This means that the duty time for a Peth based pilot can now extend to over 11.5 hours plus wait time at the airport without a break. The operator has not been factoring the travel time (by 1.5) correctly as required in the CAO 48 exemption when working out cumulative duty periods.

According to the definitions above, the time taken to travel to and from the base to Brisbane should also have a factor of 1.5 applied. This includes the first day of travel even if a rest night has been allowed in the roster.

So by example:

Travel Perth to Brisbane including travel from home to the airport and airport to hotel is 5.15 this should be factored by 1.5:   5.15 x 1.5 = 7.7.

Simulator work – 4 hours in simulator training plus section 2.13.3 of the [company] operations manual allows 1 hour before and 1 hour after training: 6 x 1.5 = 9.

Simulator work – 4 hours + 2 hours, plus wait time at airport plus travel time Brisbane to Perth 5 hours, plus time to home from airport .5, all factored by 1.5:  11.5 x 1.5 = 17.25 (plus wait time at the airport x 1.5).

The bare duty time (without factoring) which has been provided to the ATSB has been recorded as 6 + 9.40 = 15.40

In accordance with the operations manual, section 2.12 Rostering Protocols, 2.12.1 Maximum Duty Period:

The maximum number of rostered duty hours and sectors in a duty period shall be in accordance with the following table. These limits apply up until the commencement of duty, after which, the limitation of the CAO 48 Exemption apply….

This definition does not include the word flight duty and so the simulator duty would be included in this definition. This implies that a duty of 15.40 is an illegal duty period based on the longest duty time allowed.

The reporter has also advised that in calculating the cumulative duty period for training flights, the required factoring of 1.5 has never been applied.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

In conjunction with the AOC holder we have identified the following areas requiring comment:

  1. The definitions for duty, duty period and duty period factoring (as per the operations manual) have led to concern regarding whether travel associated with simulator training should be factored by the 1.5 multiplier.
  2. That travel from Perth to Brisbane for the purposes of simulator training (based on the above) exceeds the duty limitations stated in section 2.12.1 of the operations manual. As there is no differentiation between duty period and flight duty period.

Please find below operator response to the above two areas of concern:

1. In discussions with CASA following an audit in 2012, CASA have determined that the duty time factor of 1.5 associated with simulator exercises is only applicable to the simulator session and the one hour allowance either side of said session (in accordance with section 2.13.3 of operations manual). Based on this the standard four hour session with the two hour concession, as per 2.13.3. Then factored by 1.5 creates a simulator specific duty of nine hours.

Travel post simulator is calculated completely separate of the duty time factoring of 1.5 associated with simulator.

2. In response to the comment that the definition within operations manual section 2.12.1 does not include the word ’flight‘ duty, we acknowledge that this is a deficiency, however the interpretation of the table can only be applied to flight deck duty through the reference to sectors. This will be rectified at the next available opportunity.

In addition to the above, a number of fatigue preventative measures have been put in place.

These include: upgradeable airline tickets for crews on the return trip, company provided Cabcharge facility on arrival at home base and a guaranteed day free of duty not less than 24 hours post travel. The crew are also afforded the right to freely report fatigue concerns and be relieved of all duty.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

CASA has reviewed the REPCON and the operator’s response. Civil Aviation Order (CAO) 48 exemptions were written with the express intent that the 1.5 duty factoring be applied to simulator exercises only. This extends, in some cases, to include the period from the commencement of the briefing to completion of the debriefing held as part of the simulator training exercise. The 1.5 duty factoring is in recognition of the increased cognitive demands on flight crew during intensive abnormal and emergency sequence training and the inherent stressors associated with simulator assessment. Such factoring was never intended to cover duty travel as such travel does not attract the same level of fatigue as that of simulator training.

The operator has implemented procedures in applying appropriate maximum limits to duty travel and mitigating strategies when the maximum hours are exceeded. During recent surveillance, CASA found there was no evidence of any misapplication by the operator of duty limitations.

ATSB comment

The operator released a memo to their pilots advising them how the simulator duty time is to be calculated and that accommodation was available to flight crews in Brisbane if they required. It also reminded them that Cabcharge was available if they felt fatigued.

REPCON questioned the operator regarding which training flights the 1.5 factoring was applied to, and for details concerning the duty free day after simulator training and the seating upgrade for the travel back to base.

The operator advised: As per the operations manual section 3.11, the factoring does not apply to line training or line checks. The only other training conducted is that associated with conversion training which is carried out on the simulator. The reference to ‘training flights’ is in relation to instances where the simulator is unavailable and the aircraft is required to be used in its stead. However, CASA has mandated that the use of the aircraft for conversion training is no longer to take place.

To summarise the above, the only training that is carried out (on either the simulator or the aircraft) is line training, line checks and conversion training (simulator). As the operations manual section 3.11 excludes the factoring of line training and line checks the factoring of 1.5 is only applicable to the simulator – thus the factoring is applied in accordance with applicable manuals.

A unique duty free day is rostered following simulator session. This day is referred to as a ’Sim UA (unavailable) day‘ – to enable it to be specially understood/ identified.

All pilots are booked with an ’upgrade to business class‘ if available.

CASA responded that:

CASA has reviewed the extract provided by the ATSB and compared this to the Civil Aviation Order (CAO) 48 exemption as issued to the airline. The exemption does not detail a 16 hour limit. The operator advised CASA that the 16 hour limit is a company-imposed limit on the number of hours an individual is permitted to work, including duty travel, following a period of duty, to explicitly exclude excessive, yet legal, duty time; for example, travel between Brisbane and Perth following a simulator duty.

The operator expressed a need to limit duty, as described in its memo to crew, for the purpose of ensuring that crew are not exposed unnecessarily to fatigue. Furthermore, the operator has advised that the ‘16 hour policy’ was introduced in response to a number of ‘duty plus duty travel’ fatigue reports, and that the frequency of these fatigue reports, since introducing the ‘16 hour policy’, has declined.

CASA has found no misapplication of the requirements of the CAO 48 exemption.

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Last update 17 March 2017