The best way to predict what a maintenance fatigue regulation would look like is to consider the new FAA fatigue rules for pilots and the proposed European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules for maintenance organizations. Both are the result of hundreds of suggestions made by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), other national aviation authorities, fatigue experts, aviation alphabet groups, organized labor, pilots, mechanics, and others. This is the information that FAA would review to issue a Notice for Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on human fatigue in maintenance.
FAA flight and duty limitations and rest requirements (14 CFR Part 117)
Part 117 is written for flight crew members operating under Part 121 certificate holders (mostly the scheduled carriers). It is clearly a fatigue rule that mentions fatigue risk management. As you will see, in the EASA section below, the EASA rule is a safety management rule that mentions fatigue. The end result is the same. Part 117 requires that each flight crew member assigned to a flight duty period (FDP) to be fit for duty prior to commencing a flight. Section 117.3 defines “fit for duty” as being physiologically and mentally prepared and capable of performing assigned duties at the highest degree of safety. A worker must attest to the fitness for duty, in writing, at the start of a shift. This fatigue-centered “fit for duty” definition would certainly apply to a maintenance regulation. The regulation also makes the fitness for duty a responsibility of the worker as well as the company. That means that companies must operate on a schedule that ensures that each worker is scheduled with sufficient time for adequate rest. Generally such rest must be in the neighborhood of eight plus hours of uninterrupted rest. Eating, family and social activity, and commuting are not counted as uninterrupted rest.
Part 117 discusses “dead heading,” as a time when the employee is transported from one location to another to perform work. The rule says that dead heading time is duty time. It cannot be counted as rest or sleep. This section of the rule could have impact on mechanics that travel with the aircraft and then commence work while the flight crews head to the hotel for sleep. A maintenance fatigue regulation would likely impact this practice.
The FAA rule is quite explicit about duty times. With a variety of variables like time of operation, number of pilots, acclimation to time zones the rule offers a number of very specific duty times and rest requirements. However, the reasonable rule says that if you operate outside the prescribed times then you must have a fatigue risk management system (FRMS) that offers an “equivalent level of safety” to the prescribed times. The FRMS must include (paraphrased):
- A FRM policy;
- A fatigue training program (required by all operators in all cases);
- A fatigue reporting system;
- A system to monitor flightcrew fatigue;
- An incident reporting process; and
- A performance evaluation.
Let’s be clear. FAA Part 117 says that you strictly follow the prescribed duty times or create a fatigue management system that ensures the equivalent level of safety. That stipulation is also true of the proposed EASA rule for mechanics.
EASA proposed SMS regulations require fatigue risk management
In the May 2013 issue of Aircraft Maintenance Technology magazine, this author talked about an EASA Notice for Proposed Amendment (NPA). The EASA document is titled: “Embodiment of Safety Management System (SMS) requirements into Commission Regulation (EC) No 2042/2003 — Part-14. Unlike FAA’s Part 117, the rule (GM1 145.A.47(b)) is not a fatigue rule but an SMS rule that addresses risk associated with maintenance fatigue. The proposed EASA rule is quite relevant since more than 1,200 repair stations in the United States hold EASA 145 certificates.
EASA provides guidelines in the form of Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC). The AMC is somewhat comparable to a U.S. Advisory Circular. It is the best place to understand what EASA expects in order to comply with the rule.
Here are a few selected paraphrases from AMC 1 145.A.47(b):
(a) In order to manage fatigue related risk of personnel, as an aviation hazard, the organization should:
(1) Maintain a policy for management of fatigue related risk and define fatigue procedures.
(2) Define and use a work schedule scheme with maximum work hours and minimum rest hours limitations (Refer to EU Directive 2003/88/EC). Define the necessary risk assessment process when the hours are exceeded.
The three-part document, which addresses all aspects of Maintenance SMS for operators and regulatory authorities, is nearly 500 pages. EASA considers not only safety but also costs.
The FAA proposes to set a nine-hour minimum opportunity for rest prior to the duty period, a one-hour increase over the current rules.