Photo by: Boeing
Ever wondered what measures airlines go to to ensure their crew successfully manages long-haul flights? From crew rotation to pilot rest requirements, we examine how airlines fly long-haul.
How many people keep a plane flying?
The answer to that question really depends on the flight. Different services require different amounts of staff and different rotas. But there will always ben two pilots on any flight, often more for long-haul. There will also be enough cabin crew to split shifts ensuring that no individual completes more than 14 hours in the cabin.
Scheduling long haul is a delicate balance. It’s why recently, Qantas trialed its Project Sunrise flight with just 50 people on board in order to manage crew scheduling and pilot rotation.
Keeping pilots in check
Pilots. Let’s start with one of the most significant changes in this area from the 21st Century for airplane pilots. In 2011, The FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) changed its policy on pilot rest requirements and fitness for duty. It ensured the wording of its policy was clearer as well as updated maximum flight hours and opportunities for uninterrupted rest.
The Challenges Of Ultra Long Haul Flights
The regulations say that pilots need to have 10 hours of rest before their flight with the opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within that time. Pilots must also sign a form before the fly to say that they are fit for duty. It suggests that while measures are in place to protect pilots, the ultimate onus lies with the individual.
Reserve pilots also operate under a 10-hour rest rule, whereas before they only needed a rest of 24 hours in 7 days. These rules for both serving and reserve pilots apply to all international, domestic and unscheduled flights in the U.S.
How long can pilots work?
In the U.S., pilots can fly a maximum of 60 hours in a 168-hour long period (defined as one week.) Within 365 days, not more than 1,000 flight hours can be logged. Those same rules also apply to European pilots.
Consequently, long-haul flights require multiple pilots as well as crew. And with the rise of ultra-long-haul flights, that becomes even more essential.
Maximum flight times for pilots depend on the scheduled time of their first flight. If a pilot’s first flight is between 5 am and 7.59 pm, the pilot can fly for a maximum of nine hours if they are the only pilot on the flight. If the flight is outside of those hours, the maximum flight time is eight hours. But when there are more pilots on a flight, flight time is increased.
With three pilots, flight time can be 13 hours and with four pilots up to 17 hours. That means that on long haul flights of this duration, pilots will rotate to cover the flight time.
When it comes to pilots taking their rest, their quarters are always separate from the Crew Rest Compartments. The rest areas are used in shifts and normally are kitted out with Business Class luxuries.