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Rest Time For Pilots At Center Of Lawsuit

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 07, 2009 10:32 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical
Tags: Airline Safety, Mass Transit, Airline Crashes

Airline pilot rest rules imposed by the FAA are being challenged by 7 airlines.  



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ Delta 757 taking off Reagan Washington Airport/ author: Carl Lindburg


You want the pilot of the plane on which you are about to embark to be well rested.

Seven U.S. airlines are fighting new rules the government says would do just that. They have sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), claiming that they were not consulted on the new rest rules imposed last October.

Last year, the FAA imposed new rules that would require longer rest time and layovers for those commanding a nonstop flight of 16 hours.  But that would require the airlines to hire more pilots. There would need to be in-flight rest facilities provided on flights that go over 16 hours.  Most international flights fall within that parameter, but delays can make them last longer.

All of these measures drive up the cost of labor at a time when airlines are tightening their belts. 

The seven airlines filing suit to stop the new standards being imposed include - American Airlines, Continental, United Airlines, US Airways, and JetBlue, and the smaller Atlas Air, and Evergreen International Airlines.  They argue the FAA did not show how the rules would improve safety.

American Airline pilots oppose the carrier’s lawsuit, according to the Dallas Morning News, calling the opposition to more rest rules, “unconscionable.”  

In a statement from the union representing pilots, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), Its president Lloyd Hill says, “Numerous scientific studies have compared the fatigue induced by periods of prolonged wakefulness to the debilitating effects of intoxication. In the exacting world of commercial aviation, we must do all we can to combat the dangers posed by fatigue.

“The new FAA rules are based on a greatly improved scientific understanding of the effects of fatigue on human performance. Although we would like to see the FAA take a more aggressive stance on pilot fatigue, we consider the new rules to be a step in the right direction.”

But pilots for Continental who fly between Newark, New Jersey and Hong Kong told regulators that the rest time of their airline after arriving in Hong Kong was adequate, as reported by Salon.

American Airlines argues that the FAA didn’t follow the correct procedures before imposing the new rules and insists the “safety of our employees and customers is – and always will be – American Airlines’ highest priority.”

Tim Wagner of American says, “By asking for comment, the FAA will receive comments from all interested parties concerning their proposed rule, including experts within the fields of fatigue and rest, aircraft manufacturers, unions representing crewmembers, carriers themselves and members of the general public.”

In separate negotiations with the FAA, Delta/Northwest have worked out their own crew rest rules. Pilot fatigue is expected to be an ongoing concern as airlines expand their routes into Asia.

The lawsuit was filed December 24th in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. #

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