Parliament approved the Civil Aviation (No 2) Operations Regulations (TTCARs No 2) which provides regulatory guidance based on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards for a flight and duty times limitation scheme. This scheme is approved by the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA).
The issue of flight and cabin crew flight-duty times limitations is a key area regulated by the TTCAA to ensure all crew members have adequate rest periods to prevent fatigue, which can impair their performance while on duty. This is in keeping with one of the primary functions of the TTCAA, which is the regulation of all civil aviation operations in TT to ensure it meets the highest levels of international safety standards.
Under the TTCARs No 2 – operations, Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) cannot engage in commercial operations unless it has established a scheme approved by the TTCAA for the regulation of flight-duty times of every person operating as an aircraft crew member.
The approved scheme is incorporated in CAL’s operations manual and the airline must take steps to ensure that everyone flying on an aircraft as a crew member complies with the approved scheme.
A crew member cannot fly for CAL, and the airline cannot require a crew member to fly, where either has reason to believe that the crew member is suffering or likely to suffer from fatigue while flying which may endanger the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.
Similarly, a person shall not act as a member of an operating crew if that person knows or suspects there is a physical or mental condition that can render him or her unfit to perform duties as a flight-crew member.
CAL is required to publish flight-crew rosters in advance to allow operating crews to plan adequate pre-duty rest.
Both CAL and crew members are jointly responsible for the proper control of flight and duty times. Flight-crew members are responsible for making optimum use of the opportunities for rest facilities provided, and for planning and using their rest periods properly in order to minimise the risk of incurring fatigue.
The maximum duty times for flight crew prescribed in the approved scheme is determined by the number of sectors in a flight and the crossing of time zones, which affects the body’s circadian rhythm.
CAL has a system approved by the TTCAA to monitor the flight time, flight-duty time and rest periods of all flight crew to ensure that flight-time limitations prescribed by the approved scheme are not exceeded. The details of the monitoring system are included in CAL’s operations manual.
After a flight-duty time assignment, CAL crew members must have the minimum rest period and any additional rest period required by the approved flight-duty time scheme.
The minimum rest period for crew shall be as long as the preceding duty period or such as to allow the crew member to have a minimum of eight hours of sleep in a furnished bedroom which is subject to minimum noise, is well ventilated and has the facility to control the levels of light and temperature.
In computing the minimum rest, CAL takes into consideration the expected travel times to and from the crew hotel, hotel check-in and check-out times and time for personal hygiene and meals so as to allow eight consecutive hours of sleep opportunity.
Flight-crew fatigue management is a critical link in the safety chain. There are two distinct approaches for managing fatigue. The traditional approach, which is prescriptive, is based on a safety management system (SMS). This approach requires CAL to comply with its flight-duty time-limits scheme approved by the TTCAA, which identifies maximum work periods and minimum non‐work periods for flight-crew rest.
In 2019, based on ongoing research, the ICAO mandated that all member states implement the performance‐based approach to fatigue-risk management system (FRMS).
FRMS is a data-driven means of continuously monitoring and managing fatigue-related safety risks, based on scientific principles and knowledge as well as operational experience, that aims to ensure flight crew members are performing at adequate levels of alertness.
FRMS uses SMS principles and processes to manage the hazard of fatigue. Consistent with SMS, FRMS seeks to achieve a realistic balance between safety, productivity and costs. However, there are some important features of an FRMS approach that distinguish it from managing fatigue risks using an SMS within prescriptive limits only.
These approaches share two important basic features that take into account the need for adequate sleep to restore and maintain all aspects of waking function, including alertness, physical and mental performance, and mood.
Firstly, they are based on scientific principles and knowledge and operational experience. Secondly, because fatigue is affected by all waking activities, fatigue management is a shared responsibility between the TTCAA, CAL and its flight crew.
Legal Notice 285 published in the Gazette on September 13, 2019, provided amendments to TTCARs No 2 – operations, approved by Parliament, and requires all national air operators, including CAL, to establish a fatigue risk management system (FRMS) to manage fatigue-related safety risks.
The TTCAA has to approve the FRMS, which incorporates scientific principles and knowledge within the FRMS to identify fatigue-related safety hazards and the resulting risks on an ongoing basis.
The FRMS must ensure that remedial actions, necessary to effectively mitigate the risks associated with the hazards, are implemented promptly.
The FRMS must also provide for continuous monitoring and regular assessment of the mitigation of fatigue risks achieved by such actions to improve the overall performance of the FRMS.