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Proposed Rule

Interpretation of Rest Requirements

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AGENCY:

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION:

Notice of proposed interpretation.

SUMMARY:

This action proposes to interpret the application of 14 CFR 135.263 and the rest requirements of § 135.267(d) to situations in which a flight crewmember's flight time exceeds the permissible limits due to circumstances beyond his or her control. As discussed below, the FAA issued several interpretations addressing this issue in the 1990s. However, because the proposed interpretation relies heavily on a seminal FAA interpretation issued in 2000, the proposed interpretation would supersede any previous contrary interpretations of §§ 135.263 and 135.267(d).

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before January 24, 2011.

ADDRESSES:

You may send comments identified by docket number FAA-2010-1259 using any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
  • Mail: Send Comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
  • Hand Delivery: Take comments to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
  • Fax: (202) 493-2251.
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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Alex Zektser, Attorney, Regulations Division, Office of Chief Counsel, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone: (202) 267-3073; e-mail: Alex.Zektser@faa.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Comments Invited

The FAA invites interested persons to submit written comments, data, or views concerning this proposal. The most helpful comments reference a specific portion of the proposal, explain the reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data. To ensure the docket does not contain duplicate comments, please send only one copy of written comments, or if you are filing comments electronically, please submit your comments only one time.

The FAA will file in the docket all comments received, as well as a report summarizing each substantive public contact with FAA personnel concerning this proposal. Before acting on this proposal, the FAA will consider all comments received on or before the closing date for comments and any late-filed comments if it is possible to do so without incurring expense or delay. The FAA may change this proposal in light of comments received.

Availability of This Proposed Interpretation

You can get an electronic copy using the Internet by—

(1) Searching the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov);

(2) Visiting the FAA's Regulations and Policies Web page at http://www.faa.gov/​regulations_​policies/​; or

(3) Accessing the Government Printing Office's Web page at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/​fr/​index.html. Start Printed Page 80747

You can also get a copy by sending a request to the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680. Make sure to identify the docket number or notice number of this proposal.

Background

The FAA has been asked to provide a legal interpretation regarding the application of 14 CFR 135.263 and 135.267(d) to the following factual scenario.

An operator plans a flight that is anticipated to be completed within a 13.5-hour duty day. However, unanticipated delays (such as late passengers and late cargo) occur before the last leg of the flight, and these delays would extend the flight beyond a 14-hour duty day if the last leg is completed. The proposed interpretation would clarify whether the crew may take off on the last leg of the flight, knowing in advance that they will not receive the 10 hours of rest required in a 24-hour period by section 135.267(d).

Discussion of the Proposal

Section 135.267(d) of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires that a flight assignment operating under section 135.267(b) and (c) must provide for at least 10 consecutive hours of rest during the 24-hour period that precedes the planned completion time of the assignment. Under this section, a duty day may not exceed 14 hours in a 24-hour period without infringing on the required rest time. However, section 135.267(d) works in conjunction with 14 CFR 135.263(d), which provides that:

A flight crewmember is not considered to be assigned flight time in excess of flight time limitations if the flights to which he is assigned normally terminate within the limitations, but due to circumstances beyond the control of the certificate holder or flight crewmember (such as adverse weather conditions), are not at the time of departure expected to reach their destination within the planned flight time.

In the 1990s, the FAA interpreted sections 135.263(d) and 135.267(d) to permit flight crewmembers to take off on flights that were scheduled to be completed within a 14-hour duty period even though circumstances beyond the crewmembers' control extended the actual duty time beyond the permissible 14-hour period. See, e.g., Aug. 30, 1993, Letter to Mr. Ross from Donald P. Byrne, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations and Enforcement; Mar. 30, 1992, Letter to Kevin Wilson from Donald P. Byrne.

However, in 2000, the FAA issued a seminal interpretation of a section that is nearly identical to section 135.263(d). That section, 14 CFR 121.471(g), states that:

A flight crewmember is not considered to be scheduled for flight time in excess of flight time limitations if the flights to which he is assigned are scheduled and normally terminate within the limitations, but due to circumstances beyond the control of the certificate holder (such as adverse weather conditions), are not at the time of departure expected to reach their destination within the scheduled time.

The FAA's 2000 interpretation stated that the language of section 121.471(g) created an exception to pilot flight time limitations, but did not provide an exception for pilot rest requirements. See Nov. 20, 2000, Letter to Captain Richard D. Rubin from James W. Whitlow, Deputy Chief Counsel (“Whitlow Letter”). The Whitlow Letter's validity was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, and since that time, the FAA has consistently applied the Whitlow Letter in its interpretations of section 121.471(g). See Air Transport Ass'n of America, Inc. v. F.A.A., 291 F.3d 49 (DC Cir. 2002) (upholding the validity of the Whitlow Letter). See, e.g., Mar. 18, 2009, Letter to William E. Banks, Jr. from Rebecca B. MacPherson, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations (noting that section 121.471(g) does not provide an exception for rest requirements); Jan. 11, 2005, Letter to Jan Marcus from Rebecca B. MacPherson, Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations (same).

The FAA has determined that it is illogical that the nearly-identical regulatory language in sections 121.471(g) and 135.263(d) is interpreted in two different ways. See Air Transport Ass'n, 291 F.3d at 51 n.1 (stating that “[t]he substance of the rules in Parts 121 and 135 is essentially the same and the rules are likewise interpreted”). As such, the FAA proposes to apply the Whitlow Letter's interpretation of 121.471(g) to sections 135.263(d) and 135.267(d). Because the Whitlow Letter and the subsequent interpretations based on the Whitlow Letter are more recent than the 1990s interpretations of sections 135.263(d) and 135.267(d), the Whitlow Letter line of interpretations best reflects the FAA's current understanding of the pertinent regulatory language. As such, the proposed application of the Whitlow Letter to sections 135.263(d) and 135.267(d) would supersede any contrary pre-Whitlow interpretations of these sections.

Under the proposed interpretation, section 135.263(d) would not create an exception for flight crewmember rest requirements. As such, if a flight crewmember was to be aware at the time of departure on the last leg of the flight that he or she has not had the required rest, 14 CFR 135.267(d) would prohibit him or her from departing on the last leg of the flight.

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Issued in Washington, DC, on December 17, 2010.

Rebecca B. MacPherson,

Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations, AGC-200.

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[FR Doc. 2010-32234 Filed 12-22-10; 8:45 am]

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