In the aftermath of the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407, the FAA was tasked with developing new regulations to prevent pilot fatigue. After embarking on a lengthy process including a thorough review of scientific studies, the FAA has released their proposed new regulations. Unfortunately, the new regulations are meeting criticism from all sides as both airlines and pilots disagree with certain elements.
Captain Chesley Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, who landed their severely crippled Airbus in the Hudson River, spoke out against the new rules at a news conference last week. They said that the new rules were fundamentally flawed and that they should be changed “to protect the safety of the flying public.” Both were especially critical of the change in regulations that allows maximum daily flight time to increase from eight hours to 10 hours. “We’re here to tell you that you cannot reduce pilot fatigue by increasing the amount of time a pilot is at the controls,” Skiles said.
On the other side of the argument, the Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, has protested the new regulations proposed by the FAA on the grounds that they would “create onerous and duplicative regulations.” Additionally, the ATA indicated that implementing the regulations would put airlines on the hook for more than $20 billion dollars in the next decade, more than 15 times the cost estimates provided by the FAA.
There are some supporters of the new regulations such as the Air Line Pilots Association, who were supportive of the FAA’s proposal, which they say is “sorely needed” and based on the best available research. The ALPA expressed a concern that airlines would argue against the change on the grounds that costs would be prohibitive and indicated they felt actual costs incurred would be manageable.
The regulations, while indeed sorely needed and based on the latest research, do contain a few concerning changes. Their are several areas where the new regulations seem to contradict their intention are in the sections concerning duty time. Namely, the FAA has allowed maximum flight time to increase and they mandate only nine hours between shifts, which does not allow enough time for a full eight hours of sleep in addition to routine morning tasks like eating and commuting to work. While the public comment period is closed, we can still hope the FAA considers the concerns voiced and reconsiders some of the new regulations.