OCTOBER 6, 2010
US Airways pilots express serious concerns to Congress regarding FAA’s proposed fix to pilot fatigue and related airline accidents
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (BUSINESS WIRE) – The US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA), representing the pilots of US Airways, has submitted testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Aviation expressing its serious concerns with the FAA’s proposal to fix the pilot fatigue problem. Pilot fatigue has been a contributing factor in multiple airline disasters, and a fix has been on the NTSB’s “Most Wanted List” since the list’s inception more than two decades ago.
After the U.S. Congress mandated action on pilot fatigue and safety, the FAA released proposed rules on September 10 governing pilot On-Duty hour limits, Flight-Time limits, and Rest-Time limits, along with a host of other fatigue-related issues. USAPA was encouraged that Congress mandated the FAA to address the deadly fatigue issue. Although there are some positive aspects to the proposed regulation, USAPA believes that certain provisions of the FAA’s proposed rules will actually induce fatigue and degrade safety compared to current regulations.
“The proposed new rule allows airline managements to schedule crews for 25 percent more flight time in a day, and for 60 percent more flight time in a week,” stated USAPA President Mike Cleary. “It simply defies common sense that in the wake of a multitude of accidents where fatigue was a contributing factor, the FAA’s solution to reducing fatigue is to have pilots fly more hours in a given period of time.”
Before the proposed rules were issued, the FAA, pilot unions and the airline industry all agreed to use a scientific approach to address pilot fatigue, and an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) was established to address the problem.
“From the start USAPA was concerned with the ARC process, as the FAA chose to invite only members of labor and management to participate,” explained Cleary. ”No independent academic experts specializing in fatigue research were consulted, which only resulted in negotiations and dissent among the parties, rather than a recommendation based solely on scientific evaluation, as was called for in the ARC guidelines.”
“Safety concerns should never be negotiated, and given the magnitude of the problem, we are shocked at some of the provisions in the proposed new rules,” Cleary added.
In its testimony to Congress, USAPA noted other failings to the proposed rules.
“After a 15-hour work day, the traveling public would reasonably expect their pilots to have an eight-hour sleep opportunity before they return to fly,” said Cleary. “Given that human beings need time for nutrition and hygiene and time to wind down prior to effective sleep, the proposed nine-hour rest break is woefully insufficient.”
On international flights, the proposed rule reduces the rest period by 44 percent as compared to current regulation.
“To be sure, there are both positive and negative components to the proposed rules, but the serious nature of this problem requires a comprehensive final rule that will protect the traveling public and crewmembers from the dangerous effects of pilot fatigue,” Cleary continued. “We look forward to working with the FAA and legislators to create a rule that will genuinely fight fatigue and promote an increase in safety in air carrier transport. We are certainly not there yet.”