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FAA Places Corporate Gains Over Pilot Safety

December 10, 2014 - It appears that the fight that has been going on for the past two years over commercial airline cargo pilot duty-time is over, and that surprisingly it appears the FAA placed profits above pilot safety in its issuing of a Final Supplemental Regulatory Impact Analysis.

In December 2011, the FAA issued its final rule on commercial passenger airline pilot fatigue, and in January 2014, those rules went into effect. The rules now require a commercial passenger airline pilot must receive a minimum amount of uninterrupted rest and limits the number of consecutive hours a pilot can fly.

The rule requires that a commercial passenger airline pilot must receive at least 10 hours of rest between shifts, and 8 of those hours must involve uninterrupted sleep. At the time, then U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said “This is a major safety achievement. We made a promise to the traveling public that we would do everything possible to make sure pilots are rested when they get in the cockpit. This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue.”


At the time, FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta said “Every pilot has a personal responsibility to arrive at work fit for duty. This new rule gives pilots enough time to get the rest they really need to safely get passengers to their destinations.”

Many believed including the pilots unions that the rule should have as well covered commercial airline cargo pilots. The Airline Pilots Association was fully involved in the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee regarding pilot fatigue and has long advocated that the new rules must apply to all airline pilots.

Capt. Don Wykoff, chairman of ALPA’s Flight and Duty Time Committee said “Pilots who fly for all cargo airlines operate in the same national airspace, use the same airports and equipment, and fly the same arrivals and approaches over the same terrain and cities as pilots who fly passengers. Science clearly shows that pilots don’t experience fatigue differently based on whether passengers or cargo are riding behind them in their airplane.”



On Tuesday, December 9, the FAA issued its Final Supplemental Regulatory Impact Analysis (Final SRIA) on this issue. "The Final SRIA responds to comments that were made in response to the Initial Supplemental Regulatory Impact Analysis, and, where appropriate, incorporates new information provided by the commenters.

"In addition, the Final SRIA makes adjustments to the methodology used to estimate the costs and benefits of applying the final flight, duty, and rest rule to cargo-only operations, and includes additional sensitivity analyses. The results of the Final SRIA concludes that the base-case benefits of applying the flight, duty, and rest rule to cargo-only operations would be about $3 million, and the high-case benefits of doing so would be about $10 million.

"Conversely, the costs of applying the flight, duty, and rest rule to cargo-only operations would be about $452 million. Because the results of the analysis continue to indicate that the costs of mandating all-cargo operation compliance with the new flight, duty, and rest rule significantly outweigh the benefits, the FAA has determined that no revisions to the final rule are warranted."

In a report release by the NTSB on September 9, 2014, the agency found that the crash of UPS Flight 1354 was due in part to "flight crew fatigue". In the report the NTSB recommended to the FAA "improvement in fatigue awareness". Had these commercial airline cargo pilots been covered under the new commercial passenger airline pilot rest rules it is most certain these pilots would be alive today.

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