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Cargo pilot fatigue debate continues

By Hpanchal on February 15, 2013

The debate over the FAA’s pilot fatigue rules picked up steam in the opening weeks of 2013, as a bill was re-introduced to include cargo pilots in the regulatory agency’s rule. Two New York congressmen, Michael Grimm, a Republican and Tim Bishop, a Democrat, introduced the Safe Skies Act of 2013. Bishop introduced a similar bill in 2012 with former Rep. Chip Cravaack, a Minnesota Republican. That bill was referred to Committee, but did not receive a floor vote.

“Flight safety should be our top priority, regardless of what an aircraft is carrying,” said Grimm said in a statement. “Just because pilots are transporting cargo instead of passengers, doesn’t make them or the crewmembers less tired after a long flight; the level of fatigue remains the same. In the interest of safety, it simply makes sense to have a uniform standard for the rest requirements of all flight crews. That is why I have introduced the Safe Skies Act of 2013, which will help keep our skies safe by ensuring that the rest rules for passenger operations also apply to cargo.”

Bishop released a similar statement. “Since they share the same airspace and runways, it is common sense that passenger airline and cargo pilots should share the same requirements for rest between flights. This bipartisan bill is intended to ensure safe skies with a uniform standard for rest and recovery time between flights for pilots based on science.”

The new bill was immediately opposed by trade organization Airlines for America (A4A), which said it reaffirmed its support for the new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot duty and rest times rule, which it said was rigorously analyzed over a two-year period.

“We are in the safest period of aviation history, an achievement reached through a shared commitment the FAA, the airlines and their employees, and the new FAA rule continues to put the safe operation of passenger and cargo airlines first for customers and crew members,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “All stakeholders actively participated in the rulemaking, which was composed of a scientific review of existing safety measures, fatigue mitigations and diverse airline operating environments, and the rule as put forward by the FAA builds on our safety record.”

The Air Lines Pilots Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) supports the bill.

“Current science leaves no doubt that airline pilots don’t experience fatigue differently based on whether they fly passengers or cargo in their aircraft,” said Capt. Lee Moak, president of the ALPA. “All airline pilots deserve a standard level of safety. If passed, the Safe Skies Act of 2013 will ensure that both passenger and all-cargo pilots are equally protected from this serious safety threat to all who depend on air transportation.

“ALPA was fully engaged in the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee regarding pilot fatigue, and has long maintained that the new flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements must cover all airline pilots. If passed, this act would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to apply the FAA’s fatigue rules to all-cargo operations, just as the regulations currently apply to passenger flights.”

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