India raises rest period for flight crew among measures to avoid fatigue

BENGALURU (Reuters) -India’s aviation regulator has increased the mandatory weekly rest period for flight crew to 48 hours from the previous 36 hours, the civil aviation ministry said on Monday, as it laid out a host of measures to address complaints of pilot fatigue.

The revised regulations come months after the watchdog decided to conduct a review of pilot fatigue data collected during spot checks and surveillance of airlines after an IndiGo pilot collapsed and died in August before his flight.

The regulator also cut the maximum flight duty period to 10 hours from 13 hours for pilots working nights and limited the number of flight landings to two, from six, during night operations.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) revised regulations, which considered practices in the United States and the European Union, also amended the definition of night duty to cover the first six hours of the day, from five earlier.

“These changes – that are very much in line with international best practices – will ensure India has the necessary arsenal, as it prepares to clinch the largest domestic aviation market title in the future,” civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

The DGCA will also mandate all airline operators to submit quarterly fatigue reports and comply with the revised regulations by June 1, 2024.

Although pilot fatigue is a global problem, India, the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, is at the heart of the matter, with hundreds of new planes being ordered by IndiGo and Tata group-owned Air India.

IndiGo, India’s biggest airline, has said the pilot who died had a 27-hour break before duty and was in good health.

(Reporting by Kashish Tandon in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala, Savio D’Souza and Sonia Cheema)