Pilots operating under FAR Part 121 assigned to domestic routes are required to have a certain amount of "rest" time before beginning a flight. Further, the maximum "flight time," (where the pilot is not resting or on duty) is constrained within specific periods such as monthly, yearly, etc.

If a pilot lives in Florida, but is based in and originates flights from California, is the time spent commuting (from Florida to California) to begin a flight considered part of the FAR required "rest" time?

  • $\begingroup$ The regs may have changed since I retired in 1999. If they haven't, in this respect, time spent getting from where you live to where you are domiciled is your personal time and has nothing to do with U.S. regulations. We had pilots who would commute across the country just in time for their show-time for trans-Atlantic flights. Most, though, like me, commuted to a hotel room or a crash pad for a good sleep before going to work. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Mar 27 '18 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Terry - I narrowed the scope of the question to domestic ops because supplemental and flag ops have different limits. So, to keep the question focused I eliminated any issue not related to domestic ops. Of course, the core question regarding commuting and rest would not change for either supplemental, flag or domestic. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Mar 27 '18 at 19:58

Within the new fatigue regulations in Part 117 and the older Part 121.471, the word commuting is not defined. Deadheading is defined as follows (Part 117):

Deadhead transportation means transportation of a flightcrew member as a passenger or non-operating flightcrew member, by any mode of transportation, as required by a certificate holder, excluding transportation to or from a suitable accommodation. All time spent in deadhead transportation is duty and is not rest. For purposes of determining the maximum flight duty period in Table B of this part, deadhead transportation is not considered a flight

Time spent deadheading must be included in the flight duty period calculation (Part 117.25):

(g) If a flightcrew member engaged in deadhead transportation exceeds the applicable flight duty period in Table B of this part, the flightcrew member must be given a rest period equal to the length of the deadhead transportation but not less than the required rest in paragraph (e) of this section before beginning a flight duty period.

Deadheading and commuting are not the same. In section 11 of Advisory Circular 117-3, the FAA provides clarification. It defines deadheading as used to reposition flight crewmembers while commuting is considered an "individual initiated function".

To address the scenario, it would depend on if the time traveling from Florida to California was scheduled deadhead transportation. If so then the flight time is considered part of the duty period. If such a flight was individually initiated, then the time is commuting and is not part of the duty period.

Despite the potential legality of the situation, the FAA considers fatigue a joint responsibility between the flight crewmember and the certificate holder. This situation would put the flight crewmember at risk for fatigue. Individual airlines may place additional policy restrictions on commuting since Part 117 does not.

  • $\begingroup$ Put it like this... does your employer pay you or count your hours of work from the time you leave the house? Unfortunately not (although I heard some European countries try to start thinking about implementing this)... so this means a 10 hour working day with a 3 hour commute, means 15 'unpaid' hours per week. Slavery is rife and sadly, pilots do not escape it (but at least they get paid pretty well). $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Sep 20 '18 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly right. If they are commuting, as the second part of the question states, then it is commuting, no different than if you were driving to work. Since it is out of the control of the airline what a pilot does during their time off, they cannot be responsible for it. "Rest" just means that you are free of all responsibility for the certificate holder, it doesn't mean that you are actually resting. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Oct 22 '18 at 18:54

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