Sully To Congress: Be Careful With FAA Cuts

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Retired captain Chesley Sullenberger warned in an interview published Thursday by the DailyBeast.com that cuts to FAA funding may have an impact on safety and that the government should be forthcoming about potential consequences. According to Sullenberger, cuts could translate to reductions in staffing at regulatory agencies and represent a decision to accept something less than the highest standards. He said such cuts would lead to an increased risk that someone will come to harm who otherwise would not have. Sullenberger stated that the industry has made a promise to passengers that it will do the best it can, even when that is not easy, expedient or inexpensive. He also raised concerns about pilot fatigue regulation.

When asked about pilot scheduling, Sullenberger described that, in practice, each night, at each airline, a nine-hour, 15-minute minimum overnight often transforms into five hours of actual sleep. Sullenberger says he has spoken out about the FAA reauthorization bill on this subject because he feels it will be difficult to revisit fatigue rules for several decades. "We can't define safety simply as a lack of accidents," he said, adding that "if we don't proactively look for systemic risks and address them, if we wait for a bad outcome, then we haven't done our job effectively."