The federal government has tried once again to issue regulations that will prevent fatalities due to fatigued workers in a safety-sensitive industry, and this time officials addressed the costs associated with the new rules. Was this a good compromise?
Two years from now, commercial airline pilots will have to abide by new Federal Aviation Administration rules on their hours of service.
The overhaul of commercial passenger airline pilot scheduling will require longer rest periods and in some cases shorter work days.
The regulation is a result of a 2009 crash near Buffalo, NY, that killed 50 people.
The new regulations include:
- varying requirements based on the type of flight and time of day it begins. Factors that are taken into consideration include pilot flight time, duty period and rest based on the time of day pilots begin their first flight, the number of flight segments and the number of time zones they cross.
- flight duty period. This will vary, based on several factors, from 9-14 hours.
- flight time limits of 8 or 9 hours
- 10-hour minimum rest period, a two-hour increase over previous rules
- new cumulative flight duty and flight time limits. The new rule addresses cumulative fatigue by placing weekly and 28-day limits on the amount of time a pilot may be assigned to flight duty. Pilots must also have at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty on a weekly basis, a 25% increase over previous rules.
- fatigue risk management system. Airlines may develop alternative ways of mitigating fatigue based on science and using data that must be validated by the FAA.
Some compromises were made before the FAA enacted this rule in response to comments received from the industry:
- cargo carriers will be exempt because of the increased costs they would face under the new rules
- pilots can now sit at the controls for an hour longer per day, from eight hours to nine
- airlines have flexibility to allow pilots to work more hours beyond the set limits during unforeseen events such as storms, and
- pilots who don’t work late at night, don’t cross time zones or don’t fly routes with numerous landings and takeoffs will be allowed to work longer shifts.
What do you think about the new regulations? Was this a logical balance of trying to improve safety yet keeping airlines’ costs in mind? Let us know what you think in the comments box below.