Crew Changes and Fatigue in Aviation : How it Works

Today I’m in Regina. Super easy pairing. I woke up at 02:00 this morning, got ready for work, and left home at 03:30. I arrived at the airport early at 04:00 for my 04:45 check in. Once the rest of my crew arrived we had our  pre-flight briefing and went down to the aircraft to do our pre-flight checks. I was in the galley today and noticed we were short by about 30 hot meals. It took a while to figure out, but we eventually got catering to return while we were boarding passengers and provide the missing meals. Luckily we got it all sorted out in a timely fashion and had on time departure at 06:00.

The flight was uneventful. It was a little less than 2 hours, so we offered a bar service and showed some sitcoms on the entertainment system. I’m just getting over a cold, so for much of the flight I unfortunately had a pressure headache.

We landed on time in Regina and were at the gate at 10:10 local time. In Regina we conducted a crew change with a Calgary based crew who took the plane down to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

My crew will stay here in Regina all day before we go back to the airport tonight around 23:30. We’ll meet that same YYC crew and take over the aircraft for the final leg back to YVR, arriving around 01:00.

It’s not a very difficult day, to say the least. As you can tell though, it’s a long day. Since it’s too long to legally (or sensibly) have one crew operate, the airline breaks the day down with two crews. One to operate the main portion of the flights, and another to catch the beginning and tail ends. It’s all designed to avoid fatigue.

I actually had a flight a few weeks ago that the captain terminated due to fatigue. We’d operated down to Cuba, after a series of extended delays beyond our control. The final straw was in Cuba when the airline couldn’t get a flight plan for us to go home. We sat at the airport, passengers onboard, waiting to go home. We waited for an extra 30 minutes. Finally the captain decided it was too much. We’d been on duty for too long, and there was no possible way to get the aircraft home before exceeding Transport Canada’s requirements on a maximum duty day. He pulled the plug, so to speak, and informed the passengers of the situation. We had to send everyone back to their hotels (paid for by the company, of course), and then spend a minimum rest period in Cuba. We ended up taking everyone home the morning after. Luckily we were flying to the prairies! Aside from a few (understandably) angry passengers, most people were okay with the situation. After all, it was a safety risk. Most people don’t want the pilots of a 737 to operate while fatigued!

That’s an extreme example, and luckily it’s very rare. But it’s also why my you see airlines planning crew changes on certain flights. It prevents situations like that from happening.
It’s not a bad deal for my crew either. Today we’ll get 8 hours credit, for 2 flights under 2 hours. On top of that we’ll also get an hourly per diem for all the time spent her in Regina.

Not a bad deal at all!

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1 thought on “Crew Changes and Fatigue in Aviation : How it Works”

  1. Hi Jet, and nice to hear that you are still alive. A very fine post. I’m sure that the delayed return from Cuba was not to you company’s liking, but hell yes! Your Captain made the right and proper choice. Flying under extreme fatigue – or beyond the legal limits is seriously stupid. Some airlines and captains will do it, but your captain was a bit smarter. With +/- 130 souls aboard, he made the only reasonable choice.

    Hey, Great to hear from you – finally. I hear only because I get a little warning notice when you post. You do NOT post often enough. I’m STILL waiting to read/see some of your galley tales. Get with it, please . Best wishes.
    -C.
    P.S. This is now you third season? I’ve followed you posts since you were newly accepted student. My, how the perspective has changed. You’ve still got something to say and an audience that will read, so you ought to write a bit more often. C.

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