Qantas Wants To Change Pilot Duty Time Regulations

Only two hurdles now remain for Qantas to overcome as it looks to provide a record-breaking 21-hour non-stop flight between Sydney and London. The airline is seeking approval from both Australia’s aviation regulator and their pilots to agree to unprecedented duty times.

Qantas Wants To Change Pilot Duty Time Regulations
Qantas has been interested in launching a non-stop Sydney to London flight for years. Photo: Wikipedia

What are the details?

With aircraft such as the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350 now capable of travelling great distances without having to refuel, the gateway to more-profitable flights has been opened, with non-stop flights looking to command a 20 percent premium. However, the current ‘duty time’ limit for pilots is topped at 20 hours, which includes time spent on the ground before and after flights during which the flight crew is working.

The flights between Sydney and London will require an estimated 23 hours duty time to make this historic service happen.

CEO of Qantas Alan Joyce told Reuters, “We don’t have the ability to do that length of duty today so you do need to negotiate that and get the regulator comfortable with it,” he later added, “If the business case works … (we can) put an order in by the end of this year and have aircraft arriving in 2022.”

Qantas Wants To Change Pilot Duty Time Regulations
Qantas currently operates a 17-hour non-stop flight from Perth to London using the Boeing 787-9.
Photo: Wikimedia

Qantas pilots have had their say in the matter too. They’ve said that the unprecedented length of the new flight means the airline needs to do more research, consider more training, use more experienced pilots and change what they say is a flawed fatigue reporting system.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) will evaluate the proposed longer duty time based partly on a study of pilot fatigue on the Perth-London route, agency spokesman Peter Gibson said. The CASA could approve longer hours, reject the proposal, approve a shorter duty time or require new measures like a more experienced crew.

Pilot fatigue issues

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSA) released a study in January of this year on pilot fatigue, that found 60 percent of long-haul pilots had experienced moderate to severe fatigue on their most recent flight. One of the most common issues made aware to the ATSA was, take-off times that work best for passengers on long-haul flights are not ideal for easing pilot fatigue.

Qantas Wants To Change Pilot Duty Time Regulations
The 2nd longest flight that Qantas operates is from Dallas to Sydney on their Airbus A380. Photo: Wikimedia

Managing fatigue is a serious issue for airlines globally, and CASA is overseeing a new data-driven fatigue risk management system at Qantas. The agency says the new system, which takes into account fatigue reports from pilots, will create flexible duty times rather than prescriptive rules.

Safety measures that can help decrease pilot fatigue, could include, requiring more rest before and after flights, providing transportation home, and reducing subsequent duty periods.

What do you think of extending duty times for Qantas pilots? Let us know down below!