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In 2018, Transport Canada announced new flight and duty-time regulations for professional pilots in Canada.

The introduction of these changes represented the continuation of a global shift in how fatigue risk management and overall safety is approached.

Major industries around the world are now realizing that ensuring safety takes a much more comprehensive, realistic, and constructive approach.

Many aviation authorities around the world have recognized that pilot fatigue regulations cannot be implemented in a top-down, prescriptive manner anymore.

Keeping people safe requires constant, real-time feedback. It requires education, communication, awareness, and effective countermeasures.

It means realizing that safety begins outside work. 

Transport Canada's updated regulations represent another step towards viewing safety from a broader perspective, monitoring it in real-time, and offering specific countermeasures.

These regulations will begin to go into effect this upcoming December 2020.

Read on to see whether the regulations apply to you; what the deadlines are; and what exactly you need to do!



The regulations apply to both major Canadian airline operators as well as smaller and regional operators.



The deadline for major airline operators in Canada is December 2020.

Canada’s smaller and regional operators have until December 2022 to enact the changes.


What’s New?

1. More Restrictive: The total hours pilots can fly in a given time period will be reduced and maximum flight duty period will be reduced.  This will add significant labor costs to all flight operations.

2. More Comprehensive: In addition to becoming more restrictive, airline safety will also become more comprehensive, with the optional introduction of a Fatigue Risk Management System, and an increased focus on overall fitness-for-duty.

  • Fatigue Risk Management System: Operators will have the option of using an FRMS to enable them to identify sources of fatigue and manage related risks.

These new regulations will encourage operators to change from a solely prescriptive approach to a combination of prescriptive and performance-based approach.  Those Air operators who choose to remain on the prescriptive only approach will have significant additional restrictions.


The Prescriptive Approach

The Prescriptive Approach is going to become more restrictive, with air crew working fewer hours per month and year; shorter duty periods; and longer rest periods.

  • Monthly: There will be a new requirement of no more than 112 flight hours in any 28 consecutive days.
  • Quarterly: The new regulations will retain the existing 300-hour limit for 90 days.
  • Yearly: The new rules will limit pilots to 1,000 flight hours in any 365 consecutive days, compared with the 1,200-hour limit in current regulations.

Hours Pilots Can Fly Per Week/Month/Year


Current Regulations

December 2020 Regulations

Weekly Limit

No more than 40-60 hours in 7 consecutive days

Weekly regulations eliminated

Monthly Limit

120 hours – or 150 hours with special authority - per 30 consecutive days

112 hours per 28 consecutive days

Yearly Limit

1200 hours per 365 consecutive days

1000 hours per 365 consecutive days

Pilots’ Duty Periods


Current Regulations

December 2020 Regulations

Work Periods

14 hours

9-13 hours depending on starting time and sectors flown

Rest Periods

8 hours

10-12 hours

Alcohol Prohibitions

No work for 8 hours after consumption

No work for 12 hours after consumption


The Performance-Based Approach

Air operators who choose to use the performance-based approach will be allowed to vary from prescriptive requirements (such as hours worked, rest periods, etc.) by implementing a fatigue risk management system (FRMS) to predict and prevent flight crew fatigue.


What is a Fatigue Risk Management System?

A fatigue risk management system is “a data-driven means of continuously monitoring and managing fatigue-related safety risks, based upon scientific principles and knowledge as well as operational experience that aims to ensure relevant personnel are performing at adequate levels of alertness.” (ICAO) It has 4 components.

The 4 Components of a Fatigue Risk Management System

  1. The plan: The operator explains how their FRMS works, who is responsible for it in their organization, and how the FRMS will be measured and monitored.
  2. The process: The operator documents and uses a data-driven process to identify, assess, and mitigate fatigue risk in their operations.
  3. The promotion program: The operator promotes fatigue risk management through competency-based training and communicating fatigue-related information.
  4. The quality assurance program: The operator audits and reviews their FRMS to improve its effectiveness and maintain compliance with the regulations.
With this comprehensive risk management approach, air operators are better equipped to:
  • identify hazards
  • assess risk
  • develop mitigation strategies
  • provide fatigue management training and education
  • use fatigue monitoring systems
  • improve processes to reflect changing circumstances and feedback

What does it all mean?

Shift in Safety Culture

The new regulations reflect a major shift in safety culture in safety-sensitive industries worldwide--moving away from a reactive system characterized by an over-reliance on prescriptive regulations, and towards a proactive safety culture that aims to identify and manage risks more comprehensively (amendments to regulations on consumption of alcohol or drugs, mental and physical conditions, and fatigue).

From 12 Seconds to 20 Hours

Ever since the Wright brothers took off from North Carolina in 1903, the aviation industry has been constantly growing, evolving, and improving.

Today's technology allows pilots to fly across the globe through all hours of the day or night, across several time zones. We can now get from New York City to Sydney, Australia in 20 hours.

We've come a long way since those very first 12 seconds of airbound glory. The early years of aviation had a general understanding of acceptable risk, and acceptable loss. 

Those days are behind us now.  There is zero level of acceptable loss.  Managing fatigue using the full complement of our collective scientific knowledge is the latest tool to protect our crew, our passengers and our investment.

We aren't just using data to prescribe what might be an appropriate work schedule for a pilot.

We are finding ways to monitor fatigue and alertness in real-time. We are looking at more than just hours of rest vs. hours worked.

The introduction of the Fatigue Risk Management System, for example, finally acknowledges the extreme vulnerability of pilots to fatigue risk and the variety of factors that could compromise their alertness while on duty, even after compliance with prescriptive regulations.

A Fatigue Risk Management System helps manage all these fatigue risk factors, which include:

  • the time of day of a flight
  • day-night or night-day transitions
  • daytime sleep periods
  • time off between consecutive work periods
  • the number of takeoffs and landings in a given time period
  • the impact of time zone changes on circadian rhythms
  • early start times
  • commuting

(Source: Federal Aviation Administration)

A prescriptive approach alone cannot account for all these factors behind fatigue nor can it help pilots manage them in real-time.

The Unions are in Support

Previous ALPA president Tim Cannoll said that the new regulations finally "bring Canada in line with the rest of the world, and improve safety for passengers and flight crews." (FlightSafety.org)

Current ALPA president, Capt. Joe DePete remarked, “Pilot fatigue has always been a core issue for ALPA. When pilot pushing was commonplace, the safety risk faced by the first pilots was one of the reasons our union was founded. We’ve spent a lot of time and resources to ensure that the regulations are realistic in expectation and reasonable to line pilots.” (ALPA.org)

And So Is Marc Garneau

Canada's Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, was equally enthusiastic, saying, “Transport Canada’s new regulations align with today’s scientific data, international standards and best practices, and respond to concerns raised by communities, pilots and airlines." (FlightSafety.org



The new regulations essentially mean that airlines and air operators will have to adopt a robust fatigue risk management system if they want to avoid:

  • Hiring more aircrew to do the same job
  • Significant increases in operating costs
  • Struggling to compete with other companies

The new rules make it almost impossible for air operators to survive without an FRMS.


Thankfully though, adding an FRMS isn't nearly as difficult, costly, or time-consuming as following the new, extra-restrictive, prescriptive approach. Predictive Safety and IQonboard play an integral role in assessing fatigue and well-being for aviation crew. Innovation is where two or more existing technologies merge.  Together, we help airline operators assess fatigue and assist in scheduling and monitoring the effectiveness of a Fatigue Risk Management System.

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