Pilot Fatigue; an easy solution

Posted on 24. Jul, 2009 by in Featured

The FAA has recognized how critical pilot fatigue has become in aviation safety. They are fast tracking rule changes. Inputs from interested parties are due in a week. The rule changes are scheduled to be put in place this fall. Make no mistake, the “interests” of the participating parties will not be aligned. Unions, airlines and safety groups will have very different perspectives. A balance must be reached. If you want to be perfectly safe in aviation, as Wilbur Wright observed, sit on a fence. Obviously, the airlines and pilots have to make money. It will be tough to balance.

My proposal is simple- first a couple of givens. Long days and short nights, equate to fatigued pilots. The elasticity rate for airlines is high; simply put that means the percent of seats filled per flight is impacted by price. The internet has taken away the airlines ability to control prices. De-regulation has taken away the Government’s ability to set realistic and safe ticket prices. For example, start ups like JetAmerica and Skybus were advertising tickets for as little as $9. Both airlines went under; however in the meantime they drove down overall prices. This cycle repeats itself endlessly. The cumulative effect is to erode away the profitability and safety of the entire industry. Therefore, a rule change must be effective enough so that the fringe operators can’t skirt it.

It could take a long time to reach a balance. A simple rule change that could be implemented across the board and be effective immediately, would be to count flight time for scheduled and charter carriers from one hour prior to take off until one hour after landing for the entire sequence. The current flight hour limits and totals could stay in place. Even the max time between flights, currently at 8 hours, would work. The crew would have time to get to the hotel, eat and still get at least 7 hours sleep. Pilot costs would be raised evenly across the board. The additional cost to a ticket would amount to less than a Starbucks Latte’. It would prevent a crew flying in at midnight and taking off at 04:45, after sitting around the airport for 4 hours. Do you really want your pilot on duty more than 8 hours? The current rule is 16, are you tired after pulling a double shift? Is your life worth a Latte’?

No Responses to “Pilot Fatigue; an easy solution”

  1. Rick 25 July 2009 at 17:11 #

    Not being a commercial pilot, I’ve read your many posts on this subject with, of course, alarm. It is extremely ironic to me that the FAA is so tough on our medicals, that they have not addressed this fatigue issue aggressively until now. It is “out of character” for the FAA on all issues of a pilots physical condition. I hope you succeed in this campaign, for all our sakes. I hope somebody of import is reading these posts of yours.

  2. Chip 26 July 2009 at 09:54 #

    As always it boils down to money. The costs would go up accross the board because you would need more pilots to fly the schedule. However, now the FAA has to step in, because the airline model is broken. Pilot productivity equates to tired pilots; a rational set of fatigue rules needs to be put in place.

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