Thursday, December 22, 2011

FAA's New Rules to Help With Pilot Fatigue

The FAA has updated airline pilots work rules, some of which go back to the 1960's. The new rules came out after a crash at Buffalo nearly three years ago, and an investigation that found the two pilots were exhausted and shouldn't have been flying.

The new rules reflect the need for rest and how night shifts and traveling through time zones can increase errors. Carriers have two years to adapt to the new rules.

The new rules limit the maximum time a pilot can be scheduled to be on duty, including wait time before flights and administrative duties, to between nine and 14 hours. The total depends on the time of day pilots begin their first flight and the number of time zones crossed. The maximum amount of time pilots can be scheduled to fly is limited to eight or nine hours, and pilots would get a minimum of 10 hours to rest between duty periods, a two-hour increase over the old rules. The minimum amount of time off between work weeks will be increased 25 percent, and there will be new limits on how many hours per month pilots can fly. Pilots flying overnight would be allowed fewer hours than pilots flying during the day.

It is interesting that cargo pilots are not included in the new rulings. The FAA said forcing cargo carriers to reduce the number of hours their pilots can fly would be too costly when compared with the safety benefits. Those companies that contract for military charters are included in the new rules. The rule will require pilots to sign a statement before each flight stating that they are rested and fit for duty.

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