CAPA quoted in Chicago Tribune and Seattle Times

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made progress toward meeting congressionally mandated requirements to extend the amount of rest pilots can receive before duty and establish new procedures to minimize safety risks, Calvin Scovel III, ...

" One consistent level of safety across the entire airline industry — from regional jets to large mainline carriers to air cargo operations — has not been achieved three years after the warning sign delivered when tired and poorly skilled pilots crashed their commuter plane in New York, experts told a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday."

Excerpt:

Margaret Gilligan, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, said at the hearing the agency believes that overall "we have struck the right balance within the rule."

But Carl Kuwitzky, a Southwest Airlines captain, disagreed.

"We do not have one level of safety. We have two — one for passenger pilots and one for cargo pilots," Kuwitzky, who is also president of the Coalition of Airlines Pilots Associations, told the subcommittee.

Experts: Airline safety standards still inconsistent




Chicago Tribune
Congress required the FAA to issue a final rule to increase airline pilot qualifications by August, but FAA officials say they cannot meet the mandate until August 2013. The new rule would require first officers, who are also called co-pilots, ...


But the FAA has not met deadlines for raising pilot training standards, increasing minimum pilot qualifications, implementing pilot mentoring programs to raise the proficiency of less-experienced pilots and improving the leadership skills of airline captains, Scovel said.

Congress required the FAA to issue a final rule to increase airline pilot qualifications by August, but FAA officials say they cannot meet the mandate until August 2013. The new rule would require first officers, who are also called co-pilots, to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which requires 1,500 hours of pilot flight time. Somewhat lower requirements may be allowed for ex-military pilots and graduates of aviation degree programs, the FAA said.

Currently, airline captains must have the ATP certificate, but first officers only need a commercial pilot's license and as little as 250 hours to be hired by some commuter airlines.

Airlines have challenged the change, delaying the process, FAA officials said. The FAA estimated the airline transport certificate requirement will cost more than $87 million annually, with the brunt of the expense to be covered by regional airlines and other small carriers.

"These rulemaking activities are complex, and some have encountered significant air carrier opposition,'' Scovel said in reference to legislation that Congress passed in 2010 following the crash of a Colgan Air commuter jet near Buffalo, N.Y., in February 2009. Fifty people were killed in the crash, which the accident investigation attributed to pilot error by the captain and his overall weaknesses in basic flight control.

While the nation's biggest airlines are running at an unprecedented level of safety, the fatal accidents in recent years have involved regional airlines, Gerald Dillingham, an aviation expert at the Government Accountability Office, said in written testimony submitted to the Senate subcommittee.

"The last six fatal commercial airline accidents involved regional airlines, which account for about 53 percent of the nation's commercial flights,'' Dillingham said. "As a result, Congress, the media and the flying public have raised concerns about the extent that there is 'one level of safety' across the entire airline industry.''

Poor pilot performance was cited as a potential contributing factor in four of the six accidents, including the Colgan Air crash, by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The FAA did meet requirements under the new law to address pilot-fatigue problems. Pilots will be required to state before each flight whether they are fit to fly and, if not, airlines are required to assign substitute pilots without taking punitive action against the tired pilot. Other changes include a 10-hour minimum rest period before reporting to duty, a two-hour increase over the previous rule.

But the fatigue rules will be phased in slowly over the next two years, and cargo flights are exempted. That exemption has led to criticism that cargo operations are being held to a lower safety standard because no passengers are on board the flights.

Margaret Gilligan, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, said at the hearing that the agency believes that, overall, "we have struck the right balance within the rule.''

But Carl Kuwitzky, a Southwest Airlines captain, disagreed.

"We do not have one level of safety. We have two — one for passenger pilots and one for cargo pilots,'' Kuwitzky, who is also president of the Coalition of Airlines Pilots Associations, told the subcommittee.