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Flight crew fatigue (Part 121)

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Registered User
Nov 25, 2001
I'm writing a graduate research paper on 121 flight crew fatigue. Specifically, I'm looking at current regulations and trying to prove they do very little to combat fatigue.

I'm interested to hear what you all think about this problem.

Do you think current regs do enough to prevent fatigue? Are the regs too dispatch friendly during wx days? If you think they are poorly written, how do you suggest the regs be rewritten?

Do you think there should be a different set of regs for aircraft operating without advanced instrumentation? (Autopilot, FD,...)

I know how I feel on leg 9 of a scheduled 7hr 50min block day, already being in the airplane almost 9 hours, shooting that last approach.. How do you all feel?

Thanks for the help!
The best place you can start is the difference between Part 135 and Part 121.

135 rules mandate a 14 hour duty day with a minimum of 10 hours of rest in between.

121 rules mandate a 16 hour duty day (NEW) with a minimum of 9 hours and that can be reduced to 8 if needed.

It's all about Politics.
Thanks for your reply.

I understand reduced and compensatory rest requirements. I want to get into the 16 hour max duty day, which as written is the 8 hours rest within every 24 hour period requirement. I want to rip apart the "out of the carriers control" clause as well as many other dispatch friendly regs..

This is a research project, so I guess technically I should keep an open mind.
What a subject....if you could live in my body for just one month you would get your PHD. First, look up the JAR regulations on crew rest and compare them to our FAR's. I find that I am fatiqued half the time, this is a tough business in that respect. Let's take my next trip.

Thursday-leave my house at 0900 for a 1100 show. Get all paperwork together and leave and brief FA's. Leave for terminal at 1130 for a commercial flight to BWI on American. We have a 33 hour layover at BWI, but you must eat right, do some type of physical activity,and get a lot of sleep to prepare to the next ordeal. Show time is at 1700 on Friday for overwater preflight, which includes making a plot chart, double checking everything with dispatch to make sure it is in compliance with all ETOPS procedures.1830 FA brief and crew brief. 1900 leave for the airport. Go through security, preflight, and board passengers. Depart the gate at 2030, Arrive at BIKF at 0230. Two hours of monkey motion then depart the gate at BIKF at 0430 and arrive at BWI at 1030. Arrive at the hotel at 1230 after postflight and customs. Early the next morning commercial home. Sounds easy and looks easy but this trip will blow you away,tough trip.Get home at 1500 on Sunday.
After that trip it takes 2 days at home before you feel you have the energy to do anything.
With this flight max duty with 3 pilot crew is 18 hours 12 hours of hard flying. With our 727 which is two crew and additonal crew member (FE) the duty day has no limits max hours 12 in 24.
Don't forget about the operators that use aircraft with 30 seats or less. They can be 121 but use 135 duty times (aka Lakes). Too bad all but 2 of the autopilots are parked right now (120s).
Research Methods

Since this is a research project, have you considered dredging up accident reports and evaluating the state of the crew's rest at the time of the mishap? Gather info on duty/flight time on the day/week of the mishap and look for correlations between extended periods of duty/flight and mishap occurances. Naturally ANOVA with an appropriate level of probability would need to be done to determine significance.

Or you could ask a bunch of folks using pseudonyms on a message board what they think of rest/duty regs.
As a follow on to Andy's post, I'm not sure how you can search the NTSB database for specific causes, but that would be a good start.

Also, look at CDOs or "stand ups" - fatigue off a standup was the cause of an AE overrun at JFK maybe two years ago?

I have absolutely researched accidents, and have found numerous fatigue/duty time issues. The NTSB didn't start listing fatigue as a probable cause until the DC-8 plowed into the ground turning final in cuba.


Thanks for the links!
NASA's Fatigue Countermeasures Program

I did several papers on flight crew fatigue while working on my master's. The best info is from the studies by NASA's Z-team. Check the historical studies section of their website, most of the studies are available in their entirety on the web:


Good luck!


Another little item you may consider in your paper is this.
Maybe I should actually post this in two parts; the trivia question and the answer.

I work for a Part 121 supplemental carrier flying B-727 aircraft carrying passengers.

For a trip that is conducted internationally, what is the maximum duty day for me?

Here's a bonus: What is the minimum rest required before an international trip under part 121 supplemental rules?(assume you just deadheaded the night before to begin a trip out of a different city than your base, and prior to that you have been off for a week)

Keep in mind that we are flying similar equipment and hauling passengers to and from the same destinations as the Major Airlines.:eek:

I know this is a current essential element of our contract negotiations going on right now.

The regs written by the government seem to say to the passenger, "we think that if you are not riding a major airline or an airline (non-supplemental) that has at least one airplane with more than 30 seats in its fleet, then you are accepting some of the possible consequences." Why should one type of passenger or crew member be protected anymore than any other. I can tell you that as a former Laker that fell under the part-135 rules for duty times because of the 30 seat clause, I was far more fatigued from some of the 10 leg days done into and out of ORD in near blizzard conditions, than I have been flying 2 and 3 leg days back and forth to LAS. Shouldn't the regs truly reflect rest NEEDS depending upon the type of opperation. I realize that you can't write a reg for every situation, but shouldn't the max duty day be shorter and rest required longer for a pilot flying in a turbo-prop 10 legs a day? Right now, exactly the opposite is true. Does it come down to liability on the Government's part: that when an accident occurs due to fatigue, they differentiate between having to explain 19 deaths (plus 2 crew) vice 150?
Just to round ot your research, maybe you should refer to the incredible rule the Air force operates under. I can sit 48 hours straight of reserve (we call it Bravo), then launch with three pilots for a 26 hour duty day of which 24 hours can be hard flying and may involve one or more air refuelings with tankers. I'm amazed we haven had a major accident due to fatigue in the past 10 years. Then again, we get plenty of rest when we land since our plane is usually broken.
That is why the military guys that work for us think that the FAR 121 supplemental rules are stringent, they think they are in heaven. We even get to land instead of doing a midair refueling job, that's great.