Cargo pilots raise flap over rest rules
> By: Burgess Everett
> June 12, 2012 10:31 PM EDT
> Call it the freight debate: A segment of the aviation world is divided
> over whether a pilot flying a plane filled with vacationers should be
> subject to different rest rules than a pilot carrying a bunch of
> merchandise.
> Legislative momentum is building to apply a one-size-fits-all pilot
> fatigue rule to commercial pilots — but it looks to be a decision
> likely to remain in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration,
> rather than Congress. House leaders are reluctant to attach their
> names to efforts to overturn the so-called cargo carve-out to
> sweeping, new pilot fatigue rules, set to go into effect in 2014.
> The original pilot fatigue rule the FAA crafted, which requires
> airline pilots to have 10 hours of rest between flight duty periods
> and limits flight time to eight or nine hours during each work period,
> excluded cargo pilots.
> That decision befuddled the Independent Pilots Association, which
> represents UPS pilots, and Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), a former
> aviation union official and pilot of both cargo and passenger planes.
> Cravaack says there’s no difference between flying a plane filled with
> people or boxes; therefore, there should be one aviation safety
> standard.
> The FAA has since indicated there are errors in its cost-benefit
> analysis that led to excluding cargo carriers and is taking a second
> look. Steve Alterman, a spokesman for the Cargo Airline Association,
> said when the FAA crafted the cargo carve-out, all it took into
> account was a cost-benefit analysis finding that “the costs so greatly
> outweigh the benefits by 10 or 15-to-1 that they just couldn’t
> justify” the rule. Alterman, whose group stands behind the carve-out,
> expects new information from the FAA within the month. The FAA —
> required to offer public updates within 60 days of the review — said a
> second look is under way but declined further comment.
> Last week, Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
> introduced legislation that would end what the two call a “loophole”
> in pilot rest rules, a sister bill to the Safe Skies Act sponsored by
> Cravaack and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.). The House bill has garnered a
> diverse if mostly Democratic group of more than 30 co-sponsors since
> its April introduction. Though it is too early to tell whether Senate
> Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) will hop on
> board to move the legislation through committee, IPA public affairs
> director Brian Gaudet called the Snowe-Boxer bill a “game changer.”
> “We have great faith in our Senate champions but need to see how the
> act plays out in the Senate over the next few weeks,” Gaudet said,
> adding that he expects the “number of House co-sponsors to rise
> dramatically by the end of the month.”
> But the House bill is missing the key endorsements of the House’s
> Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s top brass, like aviation
> subcommittee heads Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Jerry Costello
> (D-Ill.), as well as Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and ranking member
> Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). Mica has not yet offered a firm stance on the
> legislation — and Costello and Petri are content to let the FAA take
> the lead, for now.
> “He and I both discussed the bill and we have not co-sponsored the
> bill. And the reason that we haven’t is that we want to let it play
> out,” Costello told POLITICO of his analysis with Petri.
> The bill — which pits labor interests against business — doesn’t stand
> much of a chance of passing in a gridlocked legislature, Costello
> said. But he did indicate that those interested in ending the cargo
> carve-out might be pleased when the FAA completes its review.
> “They are going to take some action and those supportive of the House
> bill, I suspect that they will be pleased in the end,” Costello said.
> “I think the FAA will end up taking action before” Congress.
> However, at the time the cost-benefit review initially was announced,
> an FAA spokeswoman told POLITICO that the reason they were reviewing
> the analysis was because the cost piece figures were on the low side.
> If that still holds true, that means any potential revision would
> likely be in favor of the original conclusion that resulted in the
> carve-out.
> In any case, Cravaack and Bishop aren’t ceding anything to the feds,
> instead meeting privately last week with Transportation Secretary Ray
> LaHood and acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to talk about
> fatigue rules. Each side laid out the road ahead, but not in any
> coordinated fashion.
> “Cravaack and I are going to continue carrying forward with that even
> if the department in effect reaffirms the exclusion,” Bishop said of
> his legislation.
> Cravaack, vice chairman of the aviation subcommittee, said he was
> encouraged the Senate put out a sister bill and even intimated that
> the tenuous surface transportation conference could include his
> legislation, though that would be an extremely heavy lift. (Beyond the
> fact that the provision wasn’t included in either chamber’s
> transportation bills, anything related to aviation would reasonably be
> considered outside the scope of the conference.) Costello also threw
> cold water on that idea.
> The Minnesota freshman said he has also requested to see the FAA’s
> cost-benefit data that led to deciding the rules would be too onerous
> to cargo pilots — and hasn’t gotten his hands on it yet. Cravaack’s
> calls for “one level of safety” aren’t doing much to convince the
> Cargo Airline Association.
> “‘One level of safety’ is simply a sound bite, which doesn’t mean much
> of anything. Because all segments of the industry are slightly
> different and you can get to that level differently,” Alterman said,
> explaining that cargo pilots generally fly fewer hours than passenger
> pilots to begin with. At big carriers like FedEx and UPS, the pilots
> have access to “hotel-like” sleeping facilities, Alterman added, and
> smaller carriers have access to some form of rest areas, too.
> Alterman also boasted of the cargo airline industry’s sterling record,
> saying the National Transportation Safety Board has only attributed
> two accidents or incidents in the past 30 years to fatigue.
> “The bottom line is in the last 10 years, we’ve flown over 8 million
> operations in the industry with absolutely no fatigue-related
> incidents. None. And so I understand what the unions are saying,” he
> said. “I understand what their argument is. I just don’t think that
> there’s any need to change the rules for our guys. We simply operate
> differently.”
> But to the UPS pilots, the carve-out is a “bad idea,” plain and
> simple, Gaudet said. And to continue the full-court press, which has
> already included a thank-you advertisement for Snowe and Boxer in
> Capitol Hill newspapers, the IPA is planning to swarm the Hill next
> Thursday with pilots meeting with 60 targeted lawmakers about ending
> the cargo exemption.
> Kathryn A. Wolfe contributed to this report.