FAA Gives Up On Stronger Crew-Rest Rules

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The FAA has given up on an effort to mandate enhanced crew-rest rules for airline pilots flying legs over 16 hours long, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. The FAA had proposed new rules that would have allowed some pilots on such legs, which require two crews, to work more than eight hours in a single workday as long as they were assured extra-long rest periods before and after each extra-long flight. But last week, the FAA said it was dropping the proposal based on industry comments. "We remain committed to addressing the issue of fatigue ... but believe additional data is necessary" before new rules are imposed, the agency wrote in an e-mail to stakeholders, the Journal reported. The new rule would have also required some carriers to provide more sleeping areas on board. More airlines are scheduling extra-long legs, such as a Continental Airlines route from Newark to Hong Kong and American Airlines flights from Chicago to Delhi.

When it proposed the new rules last fall, the FAA had cited "scientific evidence and studies" that show such long legs can induce fatigue at levels that can impair safety. Several airlines sued in court to block the FAA's proposal, arguing that the restrictions would be unnecessary and ineffective. Pilot fatigue has long been cited as a major concern by the NTSB and by the Air Line Pilots Association. Last month, ALPA called for "a complete overhaul of existing regulations to include adequate rest periods, reasonable duty periods, and special provisions for flying on the 'back side of the clock' and for crossing multiple time zones." The NTSB lists fatigue among its most-wanted rule changes, asking the FAA to set working hour limits for flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers based on fatigue research, circadian rhythms, and sleep and rest requirements.