FAA Issues New Rules on Pilot Fatigue

Sweeping rules that overhaul commercial passenger airline pilot scheduling to ensure pilots have more rest before they enter the cockpit, were announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Acting Administrator Michael Huerta. The estimated cost of the rule to the aviation industry is $297 million but the benefits are estimated between $247- $470 million, the FAA says.

“This is a major safety achievement,” said Secretary LaHood. “We made a promise to the traveling public that we would do everything possible to make sure pilots are rested when they get in the cockpit. This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue.”

“Every pilot has a personal responsibility to arrive at work fit for duty. This new rule gives pilots enough time to get the rest they really need to safely get passengers to their destinations,” said FAA Acting Administrator Huerta.

The DOT identified the issue of pilot fatigue as a top priority during a 2009 airline Safety Call to Action following the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407. The FAA launched an effort to take advantage of on fatigue to create a new pilot flight, duty and rest proposal, which the agency issued on September 10, 2010.

Key components of the FAA final rule for commercial passenger flights include: varying flight and duty requirements based on what time the pilot’s day begins, changes in flight duty periods, flight time limits of eight or nine hours, a 10-hour minimum rest period and new cumulative flight duty and flight time limits.

The FAA said it expects pilots and airlines to take joint responsibility when considering if a pilot is fit for duty, including fatigue resulting from pre-duty activities such as commuting.  At the beginning of each flight segment, a pilot is required to affirmatively state his or her fitness for duty.  If a pilot reports he or she is fatigued and unfit for duty, the airline must remove that pilot from duty immediately. 

Visit www.FAA.gov.

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