In January of 2014, new pilot fatigue rules went into effect for commercial flight pilots, ensuring they get enough rest between flights. These regulations were sparked by the 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash that killed 50 people near Buffalo, N.Y., a fatal aviation crash that was later attributed to pilot fatigue from exhausting work schedules and poor pilot training, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. This is the biggest change in pilot fatigue rules in nearly 50 years, requiring that all commercial pilots receive 30 uninterrupted off-duty hours per week – a 25 percent increase from previous regulations.
Marisa Von Wieding, JetBlue Airways’ vice president of systems operations control wrote in a memo to pilots, “Everything we know about planning for and operating in winter storms, de-ice events, spring thunderstorms, summer rolling (air-traffic control delay) programs and hurricane season will change on some level.”
Pilot Fatigue Rules
The new pilot fatigue rules were implemented to help commercial airline pilots receive the much-needed rest they deserve in order to minimize aviation accidents and fatal airplane crashes due to over-scheduled pilots. Some of the major changes that went into effect:
• Pilots are required to get at least 10 hours of rest between shifts
• Out of the 10 hours of rest, eight of these hours must be uninterrupted sleep. In the past, these eight hours could include getting to and from the airport as well as eating time
• Depending on their start time, pilots are limited to flying only eight or nine hours
• Pilots must have 30 consecutive hours of rest each week – a 25 percent increase over the previous requirement
• Cargo pilots are not held to these standards, but were given an opt-in to the new rules
Backlash of Cargo Pilots Ability to Opt-in to New Fatigue Rules
There have been some complaints that cargo pilots are not being held to the same standard as commercial pilots. Robert Travis president of Louisville, KY-based Independent Pilots Association representing pilots at UPS points out to the press, “To potentially allow cargo pilots to share the same skies with properly rested passenger pilots creates an unnecessary threat to public safety. In another statement Travis said, “Giving air cargo carriers a chance to opt-in to new pilot rest rules makes as much sense as allowing truckers to opt-out of drunk driving laws.”
Reportedly it would cost the aviation industry an estimate $297 million dollars to have cargo pilots mandated in the new pilot fatigue rules. The FAA stated covering cargo pilots would be too costly to the industry compared to the benefits of mandating cargo pilots to the resting rules as well.
Preparing for the Pilot Fatigue Rules
In a two-year preparation effort to handle the major changes the aviation industry will see as a result of the new commercial pilot fatigue rules, the following steps were taken to ensure a smooth transition for both aviation industry workers as well as passengers:
• Airlines are hiring and training additional pilots to deal with the new rules and fill vacancies
• Airlines are developing updated crew tracking methods to carefully monitor pilots schedules
• The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), the largest pilots union in the nation, is offering free Smartphone apps pilots can use to track hours they’ve slept and worked
• Technology improvements are being made to track pilots’ time in the cockpit and their time-off hours
Hopefully these changes won’t result in flight cancellations and delays, but instead will enhance the safety of all aviation travelers as well as crew members.
Slack & Davis aviation attorneys have the combined legal and technical knowledge to investigate and litigate aviation accidents, helicopter crashes and other airplane disasters. With 20 years of aviation law experience, Slack & Davis knows and understands the varied state, national and international laws that govern wrongful death and survivor actions in aviation cases.
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