Pilot Fatigue Rule Reconsidered as FAA Discloses Errors
By Alan Levin – May 18, 2012 9:59 AM ET
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing its decision to
exclude cargo airlines from pilot rest rules after disclosing
yesterday it made errors in calculations supporting the exemption.
Responding to a lawsuit by United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) pilots to
overturn the exemption, government lawyers in a court filing said they
discovered the FAA made mistakes in how it calculated the costs and
benefits of the new fatigue rule.
“This is the type of relief we asked the court to provide,” William
Trent, a lawyer for the Independent Pilots Association, said in an
e-mail release. “A flawed cost-benefit formula, issued at the last
minute, without opportunity for public comment and examination, was at
the core of our legal objections to the FAA’s exclusion of cargo
pilots from new science-based pilot rest rules.”
The FAA in December created new restrictions on the hours passenger
airline pilots can fly in an attempt to reduce fatigue. The
regulations for the first time take into account the time of day and
number of takeoffs and landings, both of which can exacerbate fatigue,
that pilots work.
A law passed in 2010 ordered the FAA to revamp decades-old pilot work
rules after fatigue issues surfaced in the Feb. 12, 2009, crash near
Buffalo, involving a plane operated by Pinnacle Airlines Corp.
(PNCLQ)’s Colgan Air. The crash killed 50 people.
While the law didn’t differentiate between passenger or cargo pilots,
the FAA concluded the benefits of improving pilot safety at cargo
carriers weren’t worth the costs.
“These errors are of sufficient amount that the FAA believes that it
is prudent to review the portion of its cost- benefit analysis related
to all-cargo operations and allow interested parties an opportunity to
comment on that analysis,” the government said in the filing.