Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201600093
Date reported 23 October 2016
Concern title Flight crew fatigue due to the delay in the introduction a fatigue risk management system for Australian operators
Concern summary

The concern related to the delay by CASA in the introduction of a fatigue risk management system for Australian operators to May 2018.

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

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern related to the delay in the introduction of the Fatigue Risk Management System at [operator].

The reporter advised that [operator] continues to roster their pilots in accordance with the CAO 48 exemption. These rules were set before the fatigue science was available to ensure the rosters were safe. All the available scientific evidence shows that by using the [InterDynamics Fatigue Assessment Tool] FAID system in the way [operator] do, pilots may be flying with very dangerous levels of fatigue. Most pilots are operating under a constant state of fatigue and have accepted that this is how a low cost carrier operates. An example of this is the first officer roster – they are rostered to fly the maximum permitted in a year and they routinely fly 999.5 hours of the allowed 1,000 hours per year or 365 days.

Reporter comment: I am concerned that current low cost airline mentality has developed rostering practices that manage to increase roster density to levels that were never thought possible when the original CAOs on flight and duty times were cobbled together with no scientific backup. CASA is allowing this to continue despite the scientific evidence to show it is unsafe.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

We are presently working through an application process with CASA to transition to operations under CAO 48.1 Instrument 2013 Appendix 7, which will require a trial of a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS). Until this application is approved, we will continue to operate in accordance with the CASA issued instrument that provides exemption from the Flight and Duty Time Limitations set out in CAO 48.

We consider fatigue as a serious risk and have processes in place to allow the removal of a pilot from duty due to fatigue concerns. Removals from duty due to fatigue concerns may be done by an individual pilot or by the company.

Furthermore, we, as part of our current fatigue management program, assess all rosters for fatigue concerns and actively adjust rosters to mitigate these concerns.

While the reporter comments on the 1,000 hours per year limit that may be operated to under our CASA approval, it should be noted that for operations under the latest CASA regulation CAO 48.1 Instrument 2013 the same limit applies and may be operated to, even without operating under a FRMS (refer CAO 48.1 Instrument 2013 Appendix 2 section 11). If the reporter is concerned about the limits prescribed by CASA then maybe that matter should be taken up with CASA.

With respect to the reporter’s observation that first officers ‘routinely fly 999.5 hours of the allowed 1,000 hours per year’, it is worth highlighting that while occasionally a very small percentage of our pilots may approach this limit the vast majority of our pilots fly less than 800 hours per year.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

As CASA has extended the transition period for the new fatigue rules until 1 May 2018, operators have until 31 October 2017 to submit draft operations manual changes or an application for a fatigue risk management system (FRMS). Until such time, and until CASA assesses the organisation’s FRMS application as compliant with the new requirements, the operator must continue to operate in compliance with the flight and duty time limitation set out in the CAO 48.1 exemption.

Last update 12 July 2018