Proposals from FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee: are they safety based?

Posted on 01. Oct, 2009 by in Airline Safety, Blog

I have read some “rumored” proposed rule changes from the FAA committee, purported to be put together for raising safety standards. One in particular stuck out; allowing pilots to fly 9 hours a day instead of the current 8. For some background we have to revisit what drove the committee to be formed in the first place: the Colgan Air incident in Buffalo, in which an undertrained, underpaid, under-rested, overworked crew crashed a perfectly good aircraft, killing 50+ people. Total pilot error, the evidence makes that clear. Three things were also clear in the aftermath of the investigation: the crew was fatigued AND fatigue is the norm in regional carriers. The crew was not properly trained or tracked. Finally, due to low pay and no future, the industry can no longer draw the topnotch people passengers expect in the cockpits of the country’s airliners.

So how does allowing the crews to fly more help lower fatigue in the cockpits? How does that make any sense?

‘The goal of any regulatory change should be to enhance safety.’ Allied Pilots Association (APA).

I agree.

“Pilot fatigue remains the one of the gravest threats to aviation safety, as we have unfortunately seen in recent tragedies such as the Colgan Air accident in Buffalo, New York this past February,” said APA President Captain Lloyd Hill. “Accordingly, we urge policymakers to keep the goal of reducing pilot fatigue foremost in mind as they consider the recommendations of the Aviation Rulemaking Committee.

“Any increase in the amount of time pilots are scheduled to be at the controls in a given duty day will only serve to exacerbate pilot fatigue,” Hill said.

It is hard to argue that fact; the logic alone is laughable.

“In order to make the airlines of America safer we are putting forth a new rule to allow cockpit crews to fly more.”

Huh? Let me point out another severe impact on safety this rule would cause. Many Trans Oceanic crews would go from 3 to 2 cockpit members. The current restriction of 8 hours requires a third pilot to be attached to an International crew flying from say Chicago to London. All three are in the cockpit for takeoff and landing; once at cruise altitude they then rotate ensuring a well rested crew on arrival. The “at rest” crewman has a first class seat; to eat, sleep or just relax in. Newer aircraft, like the 777, actually have a small bunk room for the pilots.

So who is rumored to be behind the rule change? It will surprise you; both the Airline Transport Association (ATA) an organization that represents Management and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the largest pilot union in the USA. Why? As always follow the money; for the ATA less crews to pay, for ALPA less days to work. So much for safety.

In its investigations of several fatal airline accidents in recent years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly warned of the dangers of pilot fatigue. Reducing accidents and incidents caused by pilot fatigue is one of the priorities on the NTSB’s “most wanted” list of transportation safety improvements.

No Responses to “Proposals from FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee: are they safety based?”

  1. Rick 1 October 2009 at 17:19 #

    What could possibly be the justifiable logic to go to 9 hours? It seems on the surface so stupid that it will not survive as a concept. I certainly hope not. There is also an article in the USA Today about the FAA cracking down on the sterile cockpit rule. That’s a must in my opinion. Also, have you read the FAA’s recommendation on the Hudson River airspace? I think these ideas are very good.

  2. Chip 2 October 2009 at 08:54 #

    From what I’ve seen it is based on circadian rythem and time of day. Of course that assumes all humans are on the same cycle (impossible) and the result is the same. Flying more to reduce fatigue. Dosn’t make sense to me. I’ll look at the Hudson rec’s.

  3. Chris 13 October 2009 at 00:35 #

    The proposed change is to REDUCE the DUTY time to 9 hours for night flying and 12 hours for daytime flying, not to increase the allowable flight time. I hope it passes.

  4. chip 14 October 2009 at 22:41 #

    I hope you are correct but that is not what is being leaked by those concerned.

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