June 16, 2016 / 9:52 PM / a year ago

Canada to introduce new regulations limiting flight crew hours

Canada's Transport Minister Marc Garneau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government is preparing to announce new regulations to ensure commercial pilots throughout the airline industry get enough rest, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in an interview on Thursday.

Garneau offered few details, but said the rules would apply to commercial flights of a variety of sizes and be based on scientific evidence on fatigue.

“It’s all about safety,” Garneau said in a phone interview. “We want to make sure that pilots are well rested when they are going to fly.”

A spokeswoman said details would be announced within a couple of weeks.

Some Canadian pilots, especially those working for small airlines, can be scheduled to work for up to 14 hours, while in the United States, Australia, the European Union and India, shifts range from 9 to 13 hours depending on time of day.

Major airlines typically have stricter limits on flight time than what Transport Canada requires, but the Air Transport Association of Canada, which represents small and mid-sized airlines, has argued in the past that new rules could sharply increase its members’ costs without improving safety.

Transport Canada has been studying the issue since 2010. In August, the regulator outlined a tentative plan that would have limited shifts to nine to 13 hours for carriers that operate planes with 20 or more seats.

The plan was a partial victory for smaller operators that had lobbied hard against the rules. But the government never formalized new regulations, and in October the ruling Conservative government was voted out, replaced by the centrist Liberals.

Garneau said his government’s proposal would not be limited to large planes.

“We’re looking at it not just for big airplanes, but we’re looking at it across the spectrum,” he said.

Even so, without details of the new regulations, it was not immediately clear how they might affect Canadian airlines.

In August, Air Canada said its practices far exceeded Transport Canada’s proposals.

Garneau also said Canada is planning to introduce new regulations by year’s end for drones under 25 kilograms aimed at recreational users. He said he would not seek to harmonize drone regulations between Canada and the United States.

“We want to take our own approach here in Canada,” he said.

Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Leslie Adler

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