A statement was made in a previous post, "Anecdotally, one of the more
popular schedules I have heard our pilots refer to is the '7-on/7-off'
schedule, which I believe matches the proposal by the initial poster."
We should point out that often the "alternative" schedule with many pilots is
a "2 for 1" rather than a "1 for 1" schedule...e.g. 6 days of 12 on/12 off
then 3 days off before starting the rotation again (often switching
immediately to the opposite 12 hours, i.e. rotating nights and days every
other scheduling period). It is easy to see that 7 - 12 hour shifts on/7
days off is preferable to that.
However, the pilot unions have argued for years that while schedules such as
these clearly stay within FAR minimum requirements for duty time and crew
rest (14 CFR 135.271 & .263), they cause excessive fatigue and risk of error.
They are arguing for more conservative duty restrictions within the FARs.
I certainly don't have the definitive answers here. This schedule is often
economical and convenient for personnel scheduling requirements. For many
years we have defended this type schedule on the basis of amount of downtime
and crew rest available during a scheduled work period...but with increasing
flight volumes and collateral duties, I believe those days are gone in many
locations. And while most of us enjoy the flexibility that a 7 on/7 off
allows (second or third job, personal life, etc.), I think it is difficult to
argue (with a straight face) for the fatigue free environment that it
While it is workable schedule in many locations and one that I often prefer
when flying, we should be honest about the downsides and risks, especially
given recent National Academy of Sciences statistics on medical errors.
Sorry to stir the pot even more.
Harry Sibold, MD, FACEP