The Federal Aviation Administration has passed a rule that will require passenger airline pilots to work fewer hours and get longer breaks between shifts. The revised U.S. aviation regulations were spurred by a crash that killed 50 people nearly three years ago. The new rule, announced on December 21st, aims to keep flight crews as alert as possible and reduce mistakes. The rule was delayed for years by airline opposition over cost and scheduling concerns. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the new rule “gives pilots enough time to get the rest they really need.”
The policy, which was last updated in the mid-1980s, would reduce the maximum work day from 16 hours to 14 hours per day. Pilots would get at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty on a weekly basis, a 25 percent increase over current policy. The rule also sets a ten-hour minimum rest period prior to flight duty, a two-hour increase over the old rule. The FAA imposed a “fitness for duty” standard on pilots, who would have to certify before starting work that they are well rested.
Airlines have two years to comply with the new standard. The rule would cost airlines an estimated $297 million over ten years, nearly $1 billion less than an estimate included in a 2010 FAA proposal. Airlines strongly pressured regulators to change certain provisions due to cost concerns. As a result, the measure spent extended time under review by the White House budget office. The final measure wound up exempting cargo carriers and dropping certain reporting requirements.
At press time, the biggest airlines hadn’t endorsed the policy, saying they would review the rule first. The Air Line Pilots Association also said it was reviewing the rule. That group, which represents pilots at United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and several regional carriers, opposed the exemption for cargo airlines, including FedEx Corp and UPS Inc.
The fatigue rule change was ordered by Congress following the crash of a Colgan Air commuter flight near Buffalo N.Y., in February of 2009 that killed 50 people. While investigators did not blame the crash on fatigue, they did say the crew of the plane, operating as Continental Connection Flight 3407, was “probably overtired” during the late night flight from Newark.
Source: Insurance Journal
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