Photo by First Officer Mike Sowsun

Flight and Duty Times

Stand up for safer pilot rest rules for Canada’s airline industry. Canadian pilots are joining together to advocate for stronger fatigue-related regulations. The Safer Skies initiative brings together four different pilot groups – representing more than 8,000 pilot members – to push for updated, science-based fatigue rules. Because safe air travel depends on rested pilots. Learn more at

"My co-pilot and I had just finished a flight to Athens and we were on our way through customs when we bumped into a 3-person crew from United Airlines that had just flown in from the Eastern U.S. The first thing they asked us was, ‘Where’s your other guy?’ When we told him Canadian airlines don’t have to fly with a third pilot on board for that kind of long-haul route, there are just two of us for 12+ hours, he thought we were joking."
–Captain, Boeing 767


Every day, close to 3,800 of ACPA's  member pilots perform a technically demanding and challenging job, assuming responsibility for the safety of their passengers, aircraft and airspace. Our pilots manage and balance a multitude of competing forces – including sophisticated technology, commercial pressures and the fundamental human need for proper rest.

Our pilots, our passengers and the general public count on regulations to provide a safe framework for our transportation system. One of the most critical areas for aviation safety is regulations governing flight and duty times.

ACPA’s position:

  • It is urgent that the government update Canada’s flight and duty time regulations.
  • Any updated regulations should be supported by science, and harmonize with the rest of the world.
  • ACPA supports the Canadian government’s implementation of recommendations by a working group that had broad representation and considered the science in this area. However, there is a significant gap that the working group confirmed it could not address – long-range flying, where the flight time of a single leg extends beyond 8.5 hours.
  • ACPA strongly believes any regulations must address long-range flying, or Canada would risk exposing a significant gap where our country continues to fall outside of the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) standards, leaving it vulnerable to future accidents or incidents.
  • ACPA believes that, in order to align with international standards, maximum flight time should be 8.5 hours after 1700 hours or when crossing multiple time zones, as performance will be degraded.

Canada’s outdated regulations

Canada has not modernized its regulations governing flight and duty time in two decades. Meanwhile, almost every other jurisdiction around the world has updated regulations to comply with science-based rules established by ICAO, the United Nations agency which develops international civil aviation policies and standards.

Canada’s nearest neighbour, the U.S., implemented new flight and duty time regulations in January 2014, and they are considered among the most robust in the world. For over two years, ACPA worked alongside Transport Canada as they prepared updated regulations on aviation flight and duty times that would bring Canada in line with science-based standards recommended by ICAO. However, there is one significant gap in those recommendations – long-range flying.

Long-range flying excluded — a major gap

As the largest professional pilot group in Canada – whose members today conduct the majority of long-range flying – ACPA worked to ensure this was addressed in updated regulations.

But ACPA was advised that our concerns in this area could not be addressed in the working group’s consensus recommendations, which formed the basis of the government's proposed regulations, which were disseminated in the September 2014 Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA). At the time, we were advised to file our dissents to the NPA, and we have done so.

While ACPA strongly supports the implementation of the recommendations included in the NPA, the proposed regulations contain a significant safety gap in the area of long-range flying.

Science is clear — pilots need adequate rest

There is a significant body of scientific evidence demonstrating how critical sufficient rest is for pilots, as they must be at full mental and physical capacity.

NASA – the U.S. space agency – has recommended that an 8.5-hour flight time at night should be the maximum permissible. This is based on scientific research that measured brain wave activity and micro-sleeps in actual flight operations. NASA’s recommendations, however, were not reflected in Canada’s proposed regulations (NPA). This concern is even more acute for acclimated crews returning from overseas. ACPA believes an 8.5-hour single sector flight time -- especially when sleep is compromised – should be the limit before flight crew augmentation is applied. An 8.5-hour flight time translates into a much longer duty day given pilots’ pre- and post-flight duties.

This goes to the heart of the type of flying our pilots do. In our view, any regulations must address long-range flying, or risk exposing a significant gap where Canada continues to fall outside of ICAO standards and leaves itself vulnerable to future accidents or incidents.

Fatigue can be mitigated through crew augmentation

There is a simple and scientifically recognized way to help mitigate fatigue in long-range flying – flight crew augmentation. Simply put, for flight times above the prescribed limit, the standard is to add additional flight crew members to mitigate fatigue.

For instance, there are flights that depart to Athens – one from Toronto and one from Chicago – that are nearly identical in terms of departure time and flight duration. In Canada, we permit our aircraft to depart with just two pilots on board. In the U.S., Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulations require their carriers to augment and operate with a three-pilot crew.

This is just one example of the hundreds of flights that our pilots operate from Canada each month where science tells us that augmentation is warranted but it is not required under existing regulations – and the NPA as proposed has not adequately addressed this issue.

ACPA pilots strongly believe that Canada should have regulations that provide robust, prescriptive rules based on the known science of fatigue mitigation as the foundation for fatigue avoidance.

Any regulations must address long-range flying, or risk exposing a significant gap where Canada continues to fall outside of ICAO standards and leaves itself vulnerable to future accidents or incidents.

Related: Flying Too Close to the Edge: Canadian Flight and Duty Times – The Urgent Need for Change (Summary)


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