Make us your home page
Instagram

FAA finally seems ready to write rules that keep pilots rested

It's been two decades since the National Transportation Safety Commission made this no-brainer of a suggestion: How about the federal agency that oversees airlines make rules to prevent fatigue in the cockpit that are actually based on sleep science?

Now, the Federal Aviation Administration finally appears ready to tighten up work time and rest regulations for pilots.

The agency pledged to rewrite the rules after a Continental Express turboprop crashed outside Buffalo in February, killing 50 people. Fatigue of the two crew members, along with pilot error and training deficiencies contributed to the accident, investigators said.

Co-pilot Rebecca Shaw commuted by air from Seattle to her crew base at Newark Liberty International Airport and investigators suspect she didn't sleep the night before the crash. Capt. Marvin Renslow of Lutz may have dozed overnight in a crew room at the airport.

Aviation experts say commuter airline pilots like Renslow and Shaw fly the most exhausting schedules in the business. They typically make multiple landings and takeoffs — the most stressful part of flying — into busy airports in the dark.

At the end of the day, commuter pilots often get only the minimum eight hours of "rest" time. The clock starts from when they park the plane to when they fly off the next day. Driving to and from a hotel, meals and other chores are included in that.

"We receive daily reports of scheduling that causes pilots to be virtual zombies," Capt. John Prater, president of the Airline Pilots Association, told the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last week.

Rules for domestic trips, in place since the days of propeller planes in the 1940s, allow pilots to fly eight hours in a 24-hour period. But they can be on duty as long as 16 straight hours, including nonflying time.

Here's the problem: Scientific studies show, not surprisingly, that a pilot's performance runs down as the day wears on. An NTSB study of major airline accidents from 1978 to 1990 showed half the captains had been awake more than 12 hours.

The FAA expects to finish proposed new rules early next year. They'll be reviewed by the Department of Transportation and the White House, then open for public comment. The agency's safety boss told senators last week that the rules would take into account the time of day pilots fly and how many trips they've flown in a day.

"If you're flying at night, that may reduce the number of hours you are available," said Peggy Gilligan, associate administrator for aviation safety. "If you have a high number of takeoffs and landings, that may reduce the number of hours."

FAA officials tried to change flight time and rest limits in 1995. But the proposal, which included reducing duty hours from 16 to 14 for two-pilot crews, was quashed after a flood of objections from airlines worried about the expense of hiring more pilots.

This time, carriers support reducing daily duty hours, provided they can extend the limits in "extenuating circumstances," said Basil Barimo of the Air Transport Association, the trade group for major airlines.

It's about time.

Information from the Dallas Morning News was used in this report. Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

FAA finally seems ready to write rules that keep pilots rested 12/08/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 10:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    Associated Press

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.