South Korean airlines need maximum working hours for their pilots to circumvent Russian airspace closure
South Korean airlines are pushing for the maximum number of hours pilots and other crew members are allowed to work in a single shift to be extended, as the closure of Russian airspace further lengthens certain ultra-long-haul flights.
On Tuesday, an Asiana Airlines flight from New York JFK to Seoul was forced to divert to Tokyo after strong headwinds pushed the scheduled flight time above the legal number of working hours allowed for pilots south-west. Koreans.
Under current aviation safety laws, South Korean pilots are allowed to fly for up to 16 hours. But the diversion of some flights out of Russian airspace regularly pushes flight times within minutes of that upper limit.
South Korea’s two largest airlines, Asiana and Korean Air, believe the situation could worsen further during the winter months when headwinds strengthen.
Flights from Seoul to New York used to fly through Russian airspace and across the Atlantic, but the political fallout from the war in Ukraine now means Asiana and Korean Air are sending their jets in the direction opposite across the Pacific and across the continental United States to reach New York.
The one-way trip takes around 13 hours – well below the limit imposed by Korea’s aviation regulator. But the return flight regularly takes between 15h and 15h30.
“We are looking to lift the cap on the maximum number of flying hours for pilots with discussions between unions and management underway. It must be approved by the Ministry of Transport,” a Korean Air spokesperson confirmed to the English-language Korea Herald newspaper.
The newspaper also quoted an Asiana Air representative confirming a similar effort to extend pilots’ working hours.
Fatigue management rules for aircrew vary widely, but in many countries the maximum “flight duty period” pilots are allowed to work also includes time spent on the ground. The duty period can normally be extended by augmenting the crew with additional pilots and in-flight rest.
In Europe, the maximum duty period without an increase is 14 hours, but this can be extended to 18 hours with four pilots working in rotation and the use of berths for in-flight rest.
Australian regulators also stipulate a maximum duty period of 18 hours for pilots, but the civil aviation regulator operates a complicated “fatigue risk management system” which allows airlines to extend this duty period further if they can prove that they manage the risk of fatigue. .
Under this system, Qantas has been allowed to design service limits beyond 20 hours and even longer service limits could be approved as the airline prepares for its Project Sunrise flights with flights direct from Sydney and Melbourne to New York and London.
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