Rest periods: before you fly you should rest ..

If you fly for a living, you have to take regular breaks, just like bus and truck drivers. Private pilots do not have to – or do they??

The day goes, the atmosphere remains: The last aircraft have been hangared – peace slowly returns to the site (Photo: Peter Wolter)

A reader asks

Again and again one hears about rest periods when flying. It goes without saying that there are rest periods for professional and commercial pilots and that they have to be observed. But as a private pilot, do I have to take certain breaks??

Attorney Ingo-Julian Rosch answers

For private pilots, there are basically no binding regulations on rest periods. But this is not a license to fly overtired. SERA.3101 stipulates that aircraft may not be operated intentionally or negligently in such a way as to endanger human life. If you are overtired and have an accident, it is obvious that you are at least negligent. Flying overtired is not a trivial offense, and especially for private pilots – who do not have to fly – a proven overtiredness would have a negative effect on liability.

Microsleep does not come suddenly

Section 4 of the German Air Traffic Regulations (LuftVO) also stipulates that an aircraft may not be flown if the respective pilot is unable to do so due to mental or physical impairment. Considering the strict handling of the courts in cases of microsleep in the car, one should not hope for understanding by judges here. There is also a risk of disadvantages in terms of insurance, as a comparison with the case law on road traffic shows: In the area of comprehensive motor vehicle insurance, a microsleep is regularly assessed as grossly negligent. Jurisprudence assumes that a microsleep does not come suddenly. Thus, if one notices overtiredness, one must stop and take a break. In flight, stopping is inherently difficult; therefore, a pilot will be expected not to take off at all if he is too tired.

In the case of commercial flights, the rest periods must be observed

In the case of commercial flights, the matter becomes somewhat more complicated, so only a rough overview is given here. A commercial activity always exists when remuneration is paid. Binding flight duty and rest periods apply to commercial pilots. The regulations in this regard must be defined by the respective aviation operator. In commercial aviation, there is even a risk analysis to be done on the fatigue status of the respective crews. It certainly does no harm if the private pilot also critically examines, as part of the risk analysis, whether he is fit to fly again on Sunday morning after a cigar and a drink on Saturday night.

There is a special feature for UL pilots: If they operate commercially – i.e., they fly for pay – they must also observe the rest periods of § 55 LuftBO. According to this, the holder must determine maximum times and appropriate rest periods. What is to be understood by this is subject to a case-by-case consideration.

Attention must be paid to maximum periods

Unfortunately, there is still a high degree of uncertainty in the case of mixed activities, i.e. when a professional pilot trains in a club in his spare time or also likes to fly privately over the weekend. Often the employer or the aviation company regulates that professional pilots are not allowed to carry out any activities in their free time that restrict the maximum flight times. These regulations must then also be observed.

It becomes difficult if in addition the (club) flight school also regulates maximum times in its manual or refers to the FCL regulation (EU) no. 1178/2011 ORA.ATO.130 d) and thus refers to rest period requirements. Whether an honorary activity is then to be considered with the maximum permissible flight hours, is controversial. So far, the LBA and the Ministry of Transport are of the opinion that voluntary, honorary flights as well as leisure activities do not affect the maximum hours and rest periods if there is no "compulsion" to work.

Such a constraint can also result from the organization of an ATO. A conclusive, binding regulation does not yet exist in this respect. Professional pilots who train in their spare time on a voluntary basis or in a club should therefore make absolutely sure that they do not have to work, but remain absolutely free with regard to their training times. Flying overtired can be punished according to § 315a para. 1 No. 1 StGB (German penal code) with a fine or imprisonment up to five years; even the attempt can be punishable. Therefore, even private pilots should always be awake enough to fly – even without regulated rest periods.

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