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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

International News

Canada urged to enact new pilot fatigue rules

The Canadian Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has urged its federal government to execute science-based fatigue rules for all commercial pilots in Canada.

“Updating flight time/duty time and minimum rest requirements is one of the most important aviation safety initiatives for flight crews in Canada, and new rules are long overdue,” said Capt. Dan Adamus, ALPA Canada president.

“However, recent efforts to weaken proposed rules are unacceptable. We cannot continue to let Canada fall behind on this vital step forward for aviation safety.”

The demand for new fatigue-related regulations in Canada is an on-going issue, it has been recently reported. ALPA Canada launched a “Safer Skies” initiative, which aims to raise society’s attention to the issue.

The SaferSkies.ca website asks Canadians to sign a Parliamentary Petition, sponsored by government MP John Brassard, which calls on the government to adjust regulations to:

  • Get the prescriptive rules right, based on science;
  • Require implementation by all operators at the same time; and
  • Address loopholes, gaps and inconsistencies in Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS)

In July 2016 it was proposed that, at that time, large Canadian carriers (such as WestJet and Air Canada) would have a year to implement new fatigue regulations, while smaller carriers would have up until 2021 to do so.

However sceptics argue that the pilot fatigue issue is difficult to evaluate objectively altogether, as people cannot judging accurately their own fatigue level, and off-duty factors (such as commuting to work) might also have an influence. 

According to current regulations, pilots in Canada can be scheduled to work for up to 14 hours. In the United States, Australia, India and the European Union the duration of a pilot’s shift varies between 9 and 13 hours and depends on the time of day when the shift began. 

The US Federal Aviation Administration updated its fatigue rules after a flight crashed in Buffalo, New York in 2009, killing 50 people. Fatigue was found to be a critical factor in this tragic accident.

Today, US fatigue rules limit pilots to 8 hours of flight time at night, making them even more stringent than science recommends.

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US electronics ban could extend to European airports

The European Commission (EC) has told members of Airports Council International, Europe (ACI) that the US ban on electronic devices could shortly be extended to European airports—but the US government has neither confirmed nor denied the new ban.

A decision to ban large electronic devices from aircraft cabins on flights to US destinations is expected soon, according to industry sources.

In March, the US announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft.

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Russian pilots fear losing licenses

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has recently received a petition from Russian aviation professionals complaining about the “arbitrariness in regards to aviation specialists and training facilities” of the country’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya), according to Russian media.

The petition’s authors claim that Rosaviatsiya’s actions might lead to a quarter of Russian pilots losing their licenses.

The petition claims that Rosaviatsiya has annulled the licenses of hundreds of aviation specialists, with another thousand pilot licenses to be annulled in the near future. According to the petition’s authors, Rosaviatsiya is “acting without providing any explanations”.

The annulled licenses had been issued by non-governmental aviation training centres.

Rosaviatsiya claims that a commercial pilot license can be issued only by a flight school or specialised higher-education institution. The pilots who had authored the petition, however, suspect that Rosaviatsiya is “implementing a punitive policy” in order to cover up for its own oversights.

The aviation professionals site the Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363 crash that happened in Kazan in 2013, killing all 50 people on board. The investigation discovered that the incident happened due to pilot error, arising from the lack of skill in recovering from an excessive nose-up altitude during a go-around procedure. 

According to an official report, the Tatarstan Airlines captain had not passed his primary flight training.

Those behind the petition point out that Rosaviatsiya had previously greenlighted the creation of training centres, and the issued licenses had been in line with ICAO rules.

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Airbus launches commercial drone startup

Airbus has launched a US base and operations for Airbus Aerial - its new commercial drone startup.  Airbus Aerial is situated in Atlanta, Georgia with Jesse Kallman appointed as president of the US base.

Kallman is known as a UAS industry expert with more than 12 years of experience including research at Georgia Tech, federal policy at FAA, commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) at Airware, and advocacy with groups like the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

The new business offers imagery services fusing drones, satellite images and software to bring deeper insights to commercial customers, Airbus said in a statement.

Airbus Aerial, which is also planning a base in Europe, initially will focus on developing new imagery services.

According to Airbus, these services will leverage the best global software and aerospace technology to offer actionable data and analysis of information provided by drones, satellites, high altitude aircraft and other sources.

“Through Airbus Aerial, we are uniquely positioned and fully committed to advancing the commercial UAS industry. It is bringing together partners from across the industry—ranging from vehicle manufacturers, data analytics companies, service providers and others—to enable data-focused services at large scale,” Airbus Defense and Space CEO Dirk Hoke said.

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US Ag pilots upgrade windshields against drones

American agricultural pilots are increasingly looking to upgrade the glass in their cockpits due to growing prevalence of drones in their airspace, and they’re advocating for several policies to make the technology as safe as possible.

During the winter, agricultural pilot Leif Isaacson upgraded the windshields of his crop dusting planes to reinforced glass.

Isaacson, owner of Desert Air Ag in Terreton, Idaho (US), explained that he, like many in the industry, is taking precautions to protect his employees from a new and rapidly proliferating perceived airborne threat — commercial and residential drones.

Agricultural pilots have been involved in discussions to keep safety at the forefront as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rolls out new rules to facilitate the use of drones in a host of industries.

An FAA spokesperson said no collisions have been reported yet between drones and manned aircraft. The agency has issued 44,000 licenses to commercial drone pilots and has initiated 50 enforcement cases during the past couple of years for improper drone use.

The FAA is said to be researching systems to detect unauthorised drones flying near airports and has developed a smart phone app called B4UFLY, alerting drone pilots when it’s not safe to fly in a given area.

In August 2016, FAA adopted a rule making it easier to fly drones commercially. The agency’s next step will be allowing unmanned aircraft to fly over people, in certain circumstances, and beyond a pilot’s line of sight.

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Perth prepares for non-stops

A new transit lounge is being built at Perth International Airport in Western Australia as preparations move into high gear for the launch of Qantas’ new B787 service from London, due to begin on 25 March next year.

The daily return flights will make history by operating London to Perth non-stop before continuing to Melbourne on a route Qantas says is ideal for the Dreamliner.

Perth’s new transit lounge is in addition to the market-leading facilities that already exist at the airport, which offers a smooth transition for passengers heading for other parts of Australia.

International and domestic flights arrive at and depart from the same terminal, complete with dedicated customs and immigration.

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Pilots' laptop ban warning

Speculation the US ban on laptops on some aircraft could be extended to the UK and Europe was reported by Business Travel News to have taken a new turn last month when the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) said the move could have a dangerous knock-on effect.

BALPA said it believed the risk arising from storing personal electronic devices in the hold, where they may catch fire without being noticed, could be greater than the security risk of having them in the cabin.

The US is thought to be proposing extending the ban to flights from all European countries, but the pilots’ association says this clashes with current safety advice, which states devices should ideally be carried in the cabin in case they catch fire.

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