WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration will announce new rules on pilot fatigue in January, but they probably will not include restrictions on long-distance commutes that lawmakers said Tuesday are essential to solving the problem.
The crash of a regional Colgan Air flight near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people in February highlighted the need for federal rules limiting the distance pilots often have to fly to begin their workday, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who heads the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's aviation panel.
Co-pilot Rebecca Shaw, 24, traveled from Seattle to Newark, N.J., before the Buffalo flight, and Capt. Marvin Renslow, 47, of Lutz, commuted from Tampa. Both died in the crash.
"You've got people whose work station is on the East Coast, flying from all over the country just to go to work," Dorgan said at a hearing Tuesday. "I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't commute. I am suggesting that if you're going to have this kind of substantial commuting, you better understand that you're going to have some problems."
Ice buildup on the plane and lack of pilot experience also might have been factors in the Buffalo crash. The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, called pilot commuting "an issue that deserves immediate concern" and at the hearing urged Margaret Gilligan, the FAA's associate administrator for aviation safety, to consider long-distance commutes as contributing to the overall problem of pilot fatigue.