FAA Fatigue Rules Delayed Till Next Year

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The FAA is behind schedule on its proposal for new rules addressing pilot fatigue, and they won't be out until sometime early next year, Peggy Gilligan, the FAA's associate administrator for aviation safety, told a Senate panel on Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate aviation subcommittee, said lawmakers were running out of patience with the FAA, which had said earlier this year the NPRM would be out by this fall and then extended that to the end of the year. Gilligan also told the aviation subcommittee the new rules will not allow pilots to take naps in the cockpit as a fatigue-fighting strategy, as some other countries allow. "The crew has to come to work prepared for the schedule they are undertaking," she said. "We can manage and mitigate their fatigue through the regulations sufficiently that they should be alert throughout that flight." John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, raised the issue of long commute times for pilots. "The regional carriers, especially, they lose a contract and all of a sudden, people who lived in Cincinnati for 20 years, flying out of their home base, now have to commute overnight," said Prater. But Gilligan said that issue may be addressed by FAA guidance to operators rather than in the new rules. "How to do it is hard," she said. "But we know we do need to address it."

The rules will address such issues as the time of day that pilots work and the number of takeoffs and landings they execute, Gilligan said. Besides Prater and Gilligan, the panel heard from Basil Barimo of the Air Transport Association and William Voss of the Flight Safety Foundation. The statements of each witness and an archive of the webcast can be found online.