As the polar vortex grips most of the busiest air-travel hubs in the US, airlines are starting to point out that it’s a new government regulation, not weather that is causing the shut-down in air travel. FAR 117 that went into effect just in time for this storm, states that aircrews need a 10 hour rest period, designed to ensure a 8-hour sleep period that starts when a crew is released from duty. The crew will be required to notify the airline if the rest break needs to be extended to achieve the 8-hour sleep opportunity. The old rule was 9 hours reducible to 8 hours that starts when the crew is released from duty and ends when the crew reports for duty. It did not factor in a sleep opportunity.
In addition, there are more defined limits on flight times with hard maximums, cumulative limitations, flight duty periods defined, fitness for duty (which makes it a joint responsibility of the airline and pilot of whether or not the pilot is fatigued.) This site as a good listing of the changes http://www.alpa.org/portals/alpa/fastread/2011/FastReadNewsflash_20111223.htm
A good rule, as we don’t want tired pilots. As the airlines didn’t hire more crews, they now are forced to rest and without another crew sitting waiting to take over, that means your flight goes from delayed to cancelled.
Today JetBlue spokesman Anders Lindstrom said, “That new FAA regulations to combat pilot fatigue, which limit the amount of hours a pilot can work, were a factor in the decision to curb the airline’s flight schedule. Pilots time out faster with all the delays we’ve had, a number of pilots are unable to fly.”
Expect more airline “time-outs” to come this year. The only fix is a change in the rule (unlikely) or an increase of airlines hiring ‘stand-by’ crews during weather events (unlikely in short-term).