Following the crash of Colgan Air 3407, the FAA identified pilot fatigue as an issue of great importance for airline safety. Since then, the FAA has launched an aggressive effort to take advantage of the latest research on fatigue. Under the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 the FAA is directed to issue a regulation on pilot fatigue by August 1, 2011. This proposal is a step in that direction and will likely result in such a regulation.
Under current requirements, there are distinctions between domestic, international and unscheduled flights. The FAA proposal will eliminate these distinctions and create new requirements for flight time, duty time, and rest. Additionally, the proposal creates a structure of requirements based on the time of day, number of scheduled segments, time zones, type of flights, and whether a pilot can sleep under different circumstances such as in crew quarters on board an aircraft.
“I know firsthand that fighting fatigue is a serious issue, and it is the joint responsibility of both the airline and the pilot,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “After years of debate, the aviation community is moving forward to give pilots the tools they need to manage fatigue and fly safely.”
Flight duty, under the proposal is any time when a pilot reports with intent to fly an aircraft, operate a simulator or operate a flight training device. Duty time can be comprised of flight duty and other tasks. The new proposal would set a nine-hour rest period prior to any duty time. In addition to a one hour increase in rest period, the proposal will change the way rest periods are measured such that pilots are guaranteed at least eight hours of sleep. The proposal also addresses cumulative fatigue in the form of weekly and monthly limits on duty time for pilots as well as monthly and annual limits on flight time.
“This proposal is a significant enhancement for aviation safety,” said U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Both pilots and passengers will benefit from these proposed rules that will continue to ensure the safety of our nation’s air transportation system.”
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