FAA Asks Unions, Regional Airlines To Make Changes

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FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said on Wednesday a new rule establishing flight and rest rules for pilots at regional airlines will be drafted by Sept. 1, and called on the airlines and unions to make changes in hiring and safety practices by the end of July. "We know that the airline industry is committed to operate at the highest level of safety," Babbitt said. "Now is the time to push these initiatives forward." The FAA wants airlines to obtain all available FAA records before hiring pilots, and all carriers who don't have Flight Operations Quality Assurance and Aviation Safety Action Programs in place should implement them immediately. Also, airlines that have contractual relationships with regionals should ensure that the regionals follow the same standard of safety. By July 15, the FAA will establish an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) comprising representatives from the FAA, labor and industry, which will develop recommendations for the new FAA rule regarding flight time and rest standards. The ARC will review fatigue science and international approaches to the issue.

Also by July 15, FAA inspectors will complete a focused review of airline procedures for identifying and tracking pilots who fail evaluations or demonstrate a repetitive need for additional training. Inspectors will conduct additional inspections to validate that the airline's training and qualification programs meet regulatory standards in accordance with FAA guidance materials. Earlier this year, the FAA proposed upgraded training standards for pilots (click here for the NPRM) and for flight attendants and dispatchers (click here for that NPRM). The proposal is the most comprehensive upgrade in training requirements in 20 years and incorporates best industry practices, the FAA said. The rule aims to enhance traditional training programs by requiring additional simulator recurrent training, special hazard training, and additional training and practice in the use of Crew Resource Management principles. The comment period closes Aug. 10 and the FAA expects to promptly develop a final rule. The FAA Web site has posted copies of the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Action Plan, as well as the FAA's letters to airlines and unions.