Q&A Form – Our CBA, Science-based Rules & Part 117

Our CBA, Science-based Rules & Part 117

Question

I’m not one to complain, but I have been reading with disbelief the recent MEC statements regarding our incorporation into Part 117. Having read the rule, other than some minor improvements for international pairings, I am not in any way seeing a benefit to our crew force from inclusion in this rule. Further, with multiple friends at EVERY legacy airline from years as a Naval Aviator, I have yet heard even one of them say that Part 117 has reduced their fatigue levels. ALL I have spoken with on the rule have cited the longer days that were immediately adopted by their companies as being fatigue inducing instead of reducing. Further, as a long distance commuter, I cannot support any rule that reduces my ability to fly week on / week off pairings. Having just completed a month that involved long day turns and weekly commutes, I can specifically argue that such pairings are much more greatly fatiguing over the long term than week on / week off hub turn schedules. I realize that “big-picture” political and membership issues affect this argument, but please explain in greater detail how inclusion in this ruling, given our current contractual crew rest stipulations, would improve our fatigue levels?

Answer

Here are some examples:

Rest: With a CBA minimum layover of 10:15 (CBA 12.C.3.a.) and a Part 117.25 minimum rest of 10 hours, the more restrictive of the two, 10:15, would be applied. However, for deadheads following an operational leg, the CBA minimum layover is 8 hours (CBA 12.C.3.a.) and, as such, the more restrictive 10 hours (117.25) would be used.

> 3 Window of Circadian Low (WOCL) infringements: As per Part 117.27, a flight crew member may accept up to 5 consecutive WOCL infringements (aka night hub turns) if the flight crew member is provided a minimum of 2 hours (non-reducible) in a suitable accommodation during each of the nighttime flight duty periods.

Duty Extensions: FAR Part 117.19 allows for only one duty extension greater than 30 minutes up to 2 hours within a sequence of trips (night or day). Before another duty extension > 30 minutes is accepted, a pilot must be given a 30 hour rest as described in 117.25(b). So, in a sequence of trips, once one extension (over 30 min) is used, a 30 hour rest must be given for an additional extension to be accepted again. As most FedEx pilots are aware, duty extensions/revisions is where most of our fatigue events are occurring today.

Question

Are we going to negotiate more minimum days off per bid month if 117 comes in to play? I ask because it would erode our days off as is.

Answer

We would comply with the more restrictive days off requirements of both our CBA and Part 117. If that negatively impacts historical schedules in terms of days off, then our MEC and Negotiating Committee Chairman would have that for action.

Question

At FedEx, we have a far better work and rest environment then most passenger carriers. Who inside ALPA has been pushing to bring about this forced change from FAR 117?

Answer

A comparison of passenger and cargo operational environments for flight/duty/rest highlights that cargo’s hub & spoke operations are quite different than passenger point to point operations. Here are some of those differences:

– REST: Cargo pilots fly ~60% at night in a domestic system while passenger pilots fly ~4%. As such, passenger pilots have most of their rest in their window of circadian low (WOCL) (0200-0559) while FedEx pilots attempt to sleep during daylight hours outside of the WOCL.

– DUTY: Cargo pilots have, on average, longer duty periods than passenger pilots due to the sit times associated hub turns. FedEx should be commended for building the many sleep rooms at several hubs/sort facilities made available to FedEx pilots for rest during both night and day hub turns.

– FLIGHT: Cargo pilots flying in the domestic system average about 25% less block hours per month (due to hub turn) – basic translation; less landings, less approaches, less time on task in critical phases of flight.

– Safety Performance: Using # of departures per year, cargo operations makes up 7% of the Part 121 industry. If the cargo accident rate were applied to passenger operations (93% of Part 121), then Part 121 passenger carriers would have 12 major accidents per year. If the passenger accident rate were applied to cargo operations then Part 121 cargo carriers would have 1 major accident every 30 years. Quite a disparity in safety performance where the same humans/pilots (cargo & passenger) share the same airspace/airports, fly the same aircraft and have the same initial operating experience and training requirements.

– From the Chairman’s Message dated 4/25/16: Late last week, the U.S. Senate amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act that would have eliminated the “cargo carveout” of FAR 117 was dropped from the bill. There is little possibility that the House version of the FAA Reauthorization Act will include such an amendment. With that in mind, we are left to consider two distinct possible futures. A year from now when Congress takes up the issue again, the same possibility will present itself. Or, more ominously, there is a possibility that a cargo accident attributable to fatigue will drive reconsideration of eliminating the “cargo carveout” much more expeditiously. Considering the historical safety record of cargo airlines, this is a possibility that we have to seriously consider.

Question

I have heard that the rest requirements under 117 would make our “week on, week off” line structure impossible. Could you comment?

Answer

Traditional week on week off schedules (Sun-Sat) would still be possible but would have to meet the requirements in Part 117.27 because > than 3 consecutive night time operations must offer at least 2 hours behind the door for each of the hub turns (aka WOCL infringements). Many of our hub turns do have 3:30 or more to accommodate the 2 hours behind the door, some are close and could be easily adjusted and those that can’t would be limited to 3 consecutive nights (aka WOCL infringements).

Additionally, some cities departure times could be adjusted to accommodate those duties that are close (+/- 15 min). Alternatively, schedules could be built into and out of the weekend as well current cities that have 36 hour layovers (breaking up the 3 consecutive nights) during the week. City pairs that have both day and night side schedules, could be built in compliance with the new 7:35 in 24 provision (day side only) found in CBA12.C.2.d. Those same cities would be 36 hour layovers for the the night segments (think SAN, LAX, SNA, OAK/SFO/SJU, PDX, SEA, OAK, SJU, BQN). This CBA language will reduce the high number of 24 hour layovers that flip from day to night or night to day.

However, 2 items are problematic:

1. Part 117.15 (d) makes the rest period, in effect, non-reducible and therefore, the rest must be the amount of time that is scheduled. So, 3 things are associated with this:

A. For sequences of > than 3 consecutive night time operations (aka WOCL infringements), if an inbound flight is 20 minutes late to any of the night hub turns, then those crews corresponding outbound departure times will be adjusted accordingly (i.e. delayed 20 min) to accommodate this provision.

B. If the rest period is scheduled for 2:30, it remains 2:30 and is not reducible to the 2 hour minimum.

C. If you initially start a sequence of >3 night time periods with an outbound critical leg (not a hub turn), that counts towards your WOCL infringements. With that, it is not clear whether the company could schedule a 2 hour behind the door STBY in front of this critical outbound to ensure compliance with 117.15 (d).

2. Buffers: The company can and usually does employ risk mitigating “buffers” in scheduling (Part 121 Domestic, they use 28.5 to ensure compliance with 30 in 7; Part 121 Flag, they use 30.5 to enure compliance with 32 in 7). The CBA also has buffers in order to create a safer and more reliable system (think 7:35 for single duty domestic duties and others). Thus, for certain rules in Part 117, the company would likely apply buffers based on some # of standard deviations from historical flight/duty/rest times. Unfortunately, without access to this historical data, we don’t know exactly which and what these buffers would be to certain parts of the Part 117 rule.

Question

Would FAR 117 prevent a 21 hour & 53 minute duty day off hotel standby? Last December, 9 hours into a CDG Hotel Standby duty period, our crew received an alert call from Paris Flight Operations assigning us to operate FedEx Flight 9002 to Memphis blocking out 0430Z (11.5 hours after starting the time we were expected to be physically & mentally prepared to operate worldwide). We soon learned the FARs had no duty day concerns because we were an augmented crew. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) magically reset our duty day to the showtime for the flight. We expressed concerns about our duty day to the DO when our crew of 3 blocked out for a scheduled 9:53 block time 54 minutes after our 11 hour and 30 minute standby period (would have) ended . The FPR showed the Capt & F/O 16 hour duty limit occurring at 0830Z but we weren’t released until 1440Z, 6 hours and 10 minutes after our FPR published maximum 16 hour duty day limit. Both the FARs and CBA we currently operate under say that’s okay, even though…

-CBA 12.D.5.a. states that an international pilot may be scheduled to a maximum of 13:30 hours on-duty.
-CBA 12.D.6.a. states that duty limits may be operationally extended to 15:00 hours maximum.
-CBA 12.D.6.c. allows for an extension to 16 hours, but those conditions, if applicable, were not communicated.

The “magic” is in the CBA wording which somehow says our showtime (and somehow our bodies & brains) can be arbitrarily reset. Would FAR 117 protect us beyond the obviously flawed CBA language and the existing FAR non-limits?

Answer

Unfortunately, yes this assignment was “legal” but not “smart” for human performance. According to the Goode Study, pilots exceeding 13 hours of duty are 5 times more likely to have an accident as pilots at the 8th hour of duty.

As for our CBA combined with FAR Part 121, there was not a CBA violation nor a limit to prevent this assignment. Per CBA 12.B.3.d.iv. the crew’s duty starts at the showtime of the assigned flight – hence why the FP/R gave an FAR Part 121 16-hour duty limit from that time. Also, as an augmented crew, the required rest to start 4+30 after the Standby Period started does not apply. Ultimately, I don’t think this was smart scheduling, but it was not a CBA violation.

For part 117, there are two parts that would regulate this type of assignment: FAR Part 117.21(c)(4) and FAR Part 117 Table C.

FAR Part 117.21(c)(4) states: For an augmented operation, the total number of hours a flightcrew member may spend in a flight duty period and a reserve availability period may not exceed the flight duty period in Table C of this part plus 4 hours, as measured from the beginning of the reserve availability period.

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Even as a crew operating an aircraft with a Class 1 rest facility, the best case 17+4=21 would NOT have allowed this (21+53) assignment under Part 117. Most probably, this crew was acclimated and assigned the FDP in the 1700-2359 start time period and thereby limited to a 15 hour FDP plus 4 hours and would not have been legal to exceed 19 total hours.

So, to answer the question – this assignment would NOT have been legal under FAR Part 117 and our CBA and thus, prevented this type of assignment currently legal under Part 121 and our CBA.

Question

Without a close examination of FAR 117, it’s difficult to know what questions to ask. Here are a few:
Is it possible for a 117 expert to simply apply the regulation to our operation in theory and tell us what changes (good and bad) would be required for FedEx to be in compliance?
Is our current contract more restrictive than 117 in scheduled operations – in other words, would we only see changes due to 117 if we encountered irregular operations?
Can you publish sample bidpacks, lines and pairings created using 117?

Answer

When we overlaid our schedule (Feb16) with Part 117 and our CBA, we found that 77% of the flying was “compliant.” We wish it was as simple as compliance of our current schedule to the Part 117 rule, but as previously relayed in other O&A replies, there are constraints that the company would apply in building schedules while under 117. For instance, different than now, they would have to manage for the following:

1. Non-reducible rest period of 2:00 hours for series of trips with > 3 WOCL infringements (117.27 & 117.15(d))
2. Buffers for hard flight time limits and cumulative limits (throughout the rule)
3. Duty extensions (117.19)

As per the FAA, all of these items are science-based are meant to provide for a safer operation.

As useful as having a 117 sample bidpack would be, it would take both company approval and a joint effort in the SIG to produce it.

Question

I’m new here, but seems like ALPA is a powerhouse in the aviation industry and ALPA has decades of experience negotiating work rules and contracts. Why do we need Congress, who I have very little confidence in, to negotiate our rest rules for us? Can’t we leave our negotiating up to the union?

Answer

First, please refer to the previous Q&A reply that gave a passenger and cargo accident rate comparison for Part 121 operations to review the safety performance disparity between passenger and cargo. We believe fatigue is a component of the greater risk associated with cargo operations as compared to passenger.

Second, to answer the question: For the most part, we have done exactly that – negotiated a CBA with science-based scheduling parameter/rules. However, not every property and cargo operator come to the same science-based CBA conclusion as we have at ALPA and FedEx. Therefore, Part 117 is a science-based Flight/Duty/Rest regulation that sets the floor for Part 121 passenger operations.