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Pilot Fatigue: Bunk or Real?

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Stories about pilot fatigue as potential accident factor seem to come and go in the daily media. At the moment, ABC News has been running a series of reports that it claims shows that many regional pilots are so poorly paid that they can't afford hotels when on non-reimbursed commuting time. ABC's reporting showed at least one multi-bunk crash pad, where dozens of regional pilots say they try to rest between trips, often fitfully.

The low-pay part is well documented and hard to deny. Starting salaries in the high teens or even $20,000 is hardly a living wage. Adjusted for inflation, I made more than that as a tyro journalist in a field notorious for low pay. But does this automatically translate to the widespread horrors of fatigued pilots that ABC claims? Or is the story just more mainstream media hype?

I was surprised to see FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt aggressively deny that commuting pilots aren't getting the rest they need. "We've asked very plainly to heads of all safety committees on these airlines [if] this is an issue," Babbitt told ABC, "They're telling us it simply isn't going on." (I'm assuming these are union safety committees, not company committees, but the quote wasn't clear.) This isn't the mealy mouthed statement you often get from government officials not willing to go record with a lucid response to a question. If it's a bluff, it's one easily called by those thousands of bleary eyed pilots living the dream.

Furthermore, Babbitt says when he was a commuting airline pilot, he never saw these practices directly, either. Worth noting is that Babbitt's career extends to the Eastern Airlines days and commuting isn't what it used to be. Neither are salaries. He's not unaware of this.

Frankly, I can't imagine that Babbitt would allow himself to get that far out on the plank if he didn't think he had a good sense of what's really going on. Just as surely, I don't have a clue what the situation really is. I suspect there are more than a few regional pilots burning the commuting candle at both ends, but I can't tell how widespread it is. The NTSB thinks it's an issue.

So you tell us. If you're in the airline biz, is Babbitt right or has ABC nailed it? And is pilot fatigue the potential accident factor it's made out to be? If it is, how widespread is it?

If you'd rather your name not appear, I'll make an exception to our anonymous posting rule if you'll e-mail me directly. I'll redact and publish your response.

Comments (52)

I think ABC is closer to the truth than Mr Babbitt. Although I expect ABC is exaggerating the issue for ratings, I have seen (and used) similar facilities for commuting purposes. I personally ensure I have enough rest after commuting to work prior to going on duty, but others may not. I am surprised Mr. Babbitt would ignore the evidence (including the RV park at LAX) and take the word of companies that refuse to pay a living wage for the city where their pilots are based.

Posted by: Peter Buckley | February 15, 2011 12:53 PM    Report this comment

I cannot answer who is right ABC or Babbitt but the issue of pilot fatigue is very serious. With pilots being paid very low salaries there is more likely to be overextending the flying hours to make up pay and this is more serious.

Good article Paul as a civil airline user these are part of my worry. My twopence worth

Posted by: Bruce Savage | February 16, 2011 4:37 AM    Report this comment

So, let me get this straight. There is a clearly identified problem, with evidence to back it up, so the FAA went to the people responsible for creating it, asked them if THEY thought there was an issue, they said "no, nothing to see here, move along" and the FAA said "oh, that's OK then".

The path of regulatory change is paved with the dead bodies of airline passengers. Until there are fatalities, nothing will ever happen.

Posted by: Michael Gordon | February 16, 2011 4:37 AM    Report this comment

Since mandatory retirement age for pilots was bumped up to 65 and with the sluggish state of the airline business, there are almost no pilot jobs being created for years now, so they pay less-than fast-food salaries, forcing these guys to sleep wherever they can, and oh-by-the-way, tonight youīll shutdown at 1am in the middle of nowhere, than have to be up again at 4am to bring the airplane back with another load of passengers. This chain of events happens EVERY NIGHT/EARLY MORNING in a regional airport near you.

Posted by: Arnold Pieper | February 16, 2011 5:10 AM    Report this comment

Babbitt is full of BS... I'm absolutely sure that the "Safety Committee's" he consulted were airline and not Union. ABC has it very close to the truth... for once they did GOOD Journalism. I've slept in the 2 bedroom crashpad with 12 bunks + 4 in the TV room.... some guys really can snore loudly and it stinks. I've slept in hotels and in crew rooms all over the country. The life, the "dream" is so bad I was happy to be furloughed. The new fatigue rules are heavily weighted in favor of the airline and not the pilot... fatigue is a serious, potentially fatal issue. I've been the FB (food boy, FO seat filler) on Deep South America International flights were I had to use my fingers to keep my eyes open... shaking my head and slapping my own face to stay awake. The pay stinks, the life sucks and you have no time to have a family. My two cents if you love flying don't expect to do be an airline pilot for a living.

Posted by: Scott Perdue | February 16, 2011 5:58 AM    Report this comment

Just another reason to get that instrument rating and fly yourself.

Posted by: Brian Bailey | February 16, 2011 6:58 AM    Report this comment

As a career airline pilot, it has been my observation that, while some pilots certainly do spend the night prior to reporting in a big black chair in the pilots' lounge, it is not a statistically significant number.

The greater question is: what could anyone, the company or the FAA, do about it. The time prior to reporting for duty is a pilot's private life. If a crash pad is made an illegal spot to spend the night, then can anyone set a size and comfort standard for the homes of all airline pilots? Under what theory of law could anyone tell an employee how he must spend the time prior to going on duty? Should we outlaw crying babies among the families of younger pilots? No more military reserve flying on the weekend prior to a Monday flight? No more strenuous yard work on the weekend for pilots over 50?

And if we do find some workable way to impose such restrictions, to whom will society extend them? Surgeons on the night before operating? Air traffic controllers prior to a shift? Congressmen before an important vote? It always comes back to personal responsibility and the impossibility of substituting gov't regulation for it. At my airline, every captain, prior to every flight, signs a release certifying that he and his crew are properly fit for the coming leg. Personal responsibility: there is no substitute .... most certainly not in the halls of the FAA or anywhere else in Washington.

Posted by: Kim Welch | February 16, 2011 7:05 AM    Report this comment

One of the problems with low starting pay is contract negotiations. When it comes to negotiating a better starting pay, and paying for it with a lessor senior pay raises, the majority vote it down and low starting pay prevails. I do think starting pay should be better. At one time I hired pilots for an airline and was always ashamed when disclosing the starting pay. Having said that, I look at the first year at a airline as a internship, not unlike doctors and other professions. Work hours and pay are usually dismal during an internship. As far as crash pads are concerned, if they become illegal, pilots will find other places to rest before a trip, like cars, lounges, etc. Finally, even if the starting pay is reasonable, a commuting pilot will still try to economize. The less he spends, the more he has. Some high paid commuters still use crash pads. For me, I can't sleep a solid 8 hours, never have. Cat naps, when needed, work wonders for me.

Posted by: Tom Helm | February 16, 2011 7:57 AM    Report this comment

I can't speak for your or any other airline, but at mine the starting pay as a percentage of the highest longevity level (12 yrs) rose continually from the year I was hired (1977) through the last contract which I had a part in negotiating (2001).

Posted by: Kim Welch | February 16, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Following is posted for a pilot who contacted me directly:

Babbitt is out of touch. But then ALPA too is out of touch when it comes to Regional airlines so remember he was our ALPA chairman for years. Our pilots are getting about 11 days off per month not the 14-20 the main line boys get. I don't believe it's going on as ABC indicated for main line pilots but then I don't work for one so can't say for sure. It is at our airline though not as much as when we had a JFK base. I see guys and gals sleeping in the crew rooms all the time and I'm seeing them at midnight and after when I finish up a late ready reserve assignment or finish a ferry flight in the wee hours of the night. Babbitt and the main line ALPA pilots sure don't want to admit this as it would surely affect the coming duty time rules coming at the end of the summer and I'd suspect they would upset the commuting pilot habits.

Since I'm still a working pilot ( for 22 more months) I'd prefer you not publish my name. Thank you.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 16, 2011 8:09 AM    Report this comment

Captain Babbitt is full of it. I used crash pads for years as a commuter, until I final got senior enough that three hotels rooms (in a flea bag I wouldn't take my socks off in) was cheaper.

And he was asking airline safety committees, but don't wait for the union. ALPA wouldn't even say the Colgan 3407 F/O was fatigued with 7 hours sleep in the last 30.

The entire FAA is broken and our illustrious Administrator is part of the problem. We need a pilot, not a politician in there.

Posted by: John Hyle | February 16, 2011 8:18 AM    Report this comment

Kim Welch, I think you helped make my point regarding salaries. A percentage increase, as opposed to a dollar increase, is a lot less dollars for the low salary as compared to the same percentage increase for a senior salary. And you are correct, after the first year, salaries are usually tied to a percentage of a senior salary, however, first year probational salaries are often not.

Posted by: Tom Helm | February 16, 2011 8:49 AM    Report this comment

My son is an FO on a regional; commutes from the West Coast to bases East of the Misssippi. Not only is starting salary low, it's the student loans for the flight training and college that suck up his pay leaving nothing for hotel rooms. Fatigue creeps in when you spend your off-duty time waiting for the van to take you to a hotel, find someplace to eat at midnight then trying to get a few hours sleep before a 0430 get-up for a 0600 departure. After a few days of this you are mentally and physically exhausted. It's a grueling lifestyle.

Posted by: hal gosling | February 16, 2011 10:42 AM    Report this comment

NBC has never had an aviation story correct nor their competitors. But as a 12,000 hour former corporate pilot I have seen hundreds of underpaid over worked pilots that are too broke to eat or sleep anywhere but in a cheap chair or the floor. Believe me fatigue is the number one killer, I have come very close. The FAA does a great job with many issues but they need to wake up on this one.

Posted by: Bob Sudderth | February 16, 2011 10:54 AM    Report this comment

Thomas, as a professional pilot I regard your comment regarding the first year as an internship insulting. By the time a pilot in North America makes it to a regional airline, his/her internship is DONE! Maybe anyone hired as an executive at a regional or major airline should be treated as an intern for the first 3 years and paid the same starvation wages new pilots are expected to live on.

Posted by: Peter Buckley | February 16, 2011 12:14 PM    Report this comment

The other side of the coin is that a pilot is responsible for saying he/she can or can't fly. I've lost jobs because I said I can't or won't take a flight. Even if I'm meeting the duty regs, if I didn't get a good nights sleep and am too tired I won't take the flight. It is extremely hard to say no when you need the money/time/hours. As "the final authority" for safety of flight, it's my duty to not fly/operate an aircraft impaired. I've been very fortunate to have a wife who has backed me up about loosing a job, rather than have my kids loose their father.

Posted by: Dave Stock | February 16, 2011 12:56 PM    Report this comment

This is a little bit of a complex issue. You can go into ANY crewroom in the WORLD and find a pilot racked out on a chair or couch - FOR WHATEVER REASON. It does not necessarily mean said pilot is living in the crewroom or monsterously fatigued. Many people don't realize that pilots are only paid when the aircraft is moving. Time spent between flights is completely the pilots own time. When I flew the 737 we had schedules that had a lot of what we called built in "sit time". That is time between flights either at the airline's hub or at an outstation. Many times you take a nap just out of pure boredom. Other times it can very likely be fatigue related - the point is if you just arbitarily take video of people sleeping on crewroom furniture IT CAN BE FOR ANY NUMBER OF REASONS.

The subject of commuting also needs some illumination. I would venture a guess that somewhere around 80% of commuting has more to do with liking where you live than a direct financial inability to live near work. And I say that as guy whose first airline job base was in Newark NJ (our nations armpit) as an ATR42 F/O making $12.83 per flight hour back in 1994 ! I could have easily moved (cuz back then everything I owned fit in my truck, it had to) to Eastern PA or Northwestern NJ and found an Apt. Yet I much PREFFERED commuting in from beautiful Colorado and was willing to accept all the additional pain and risk that it entailed.

Posted by: Randolph Palma | February 16, 2011 12:59 PM    Report this comment

Randolph, you are too complex.

Posted by: Bob Sudderth | February 16, 2011 1:06 PM    Report this comment

Bob, if I drew some pictures would that help you ?

Posted by: Randolph Palma | February 16, 2011 1:26 PM    Report this comment

IF the pilot choses to live in different city than his Base Station; that is HIS problem. If the pilot wants to fly for the probationary pay a Company offers; that is HIS choice. IF a pilot is not physically fit to fly a trip; he had better have the responsiblity, AND have enough judgement to stay off the trip OR get out of the business. It took me nearly 2 years to work off my probationary year, and the pay I recieved for my interim jobs was more than the airline paid. I knew something about what I was getting into. It was MY choice; obviously, I wanted to fly. I STILL want to fly. If YOU don't; go somewhere else to work.

Posted by: George A Hutchinson | February 16, 2011 1:36 PM    Report this comment

Posted by Paul Bertorelli for anonymous pilot.

I previously flew for a major regional airline for 5 years and have over 15 years of professional aviation experience. During my time at the regionals flying the CRJ, the company operated in three different paint schemes, with service to 36 states.

I can honestly say that fatigue is an issue. I have seen it and I have been there personally. Even with a fatigue managment policy, I have observed pilots falling asleep while flying... and to an extent more than "micro-napping" as NASA describes it.

During my time as an FO I once flew with a captain that was so fatigued due to a schedule change, he fell asleep ON SHORT FINAL. It was my leg to fly and I didn't realize he was asleep until we had slowed and he didn't take over control of the aircraft to taxi clear of the runway. (In retrospect, it must have been a good landing since he slept through it!)

Until the FAA and airlines realize that scientific findings regarding duty time, circadian rythym, and sleep quality are valid, AND address them with common sense regulatory changes, pilots will continue to fly in an impaired condition. We cannot allow pilots (particularly those at the lower tiers of the industry) to make decisions regarding their fatigue when airlines punish them, either financially or through disciplinary actions, for cancelling flights or calling in fatigued.

Thank you for providing an opportunity for anonymous feedback.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 16, 2011 3:27 PM    Report this comment

George - I agree with most of your post. Pilots are choosing this work arrangement and if you were flying freight over open ocean or the Nevada desert I'd say it's okay. When you load up the aircraft with 100+ people and fly over cities and houses there is a higher standard.

Despite the finger pointing, I think the airlines and FAA aren't the only ones to blame. The flying public have insisted on cheaper and cheaper tickets and something's got to give. For the working environment to change, fares will have to go up and we might have to look at more turboprops instead of jets for regional service.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | February 17, 2011 9:00 AM    Report this comment

Some schedules can be extremely fatiguing with out outside influences. These schedules maybe legal but that does not make them safe or smart. Then you introduce a commute, or a poor nightís sleep and the fatigue builds to or passed critical levels. The FAA and airlines have to balance between cost and fatigue. Oh and pilots are paid poorly because they show up to work.

Posted by: Mike Doherty | February 17, 2011 9:07 AM    Report this comment

As someone "lucky" enough to be a 10-year regional airline F/O, I can certainly vouch for the low pay and fatiguing schedules. I think the real issue is that most regionals now have pilot bases exclusively in large expensive metropolitan areas. Try to live in New York, Boston, or Los Angeles on $20,000 per year and let me know how that works out. Many pilots also have large loan payments for flight training as well. I'd estimate that the majority of our pilots commute, either by air or in a long multi-hour drive. Certainly this career allows for more flexibility than most, but many pilots (particularly F/Os) commute out of financial necessity.

As a commuter myself, commuting does not automatically imply fatigue. There is a level of personal responsibility required. The crux of the issue is that it's generally a more difficult personal decision for a regional F/O (compared with a major F/O) to ensure quality rest by commuting in the night before a trip if necessary. That makes for another night away from the family on a schedule with only 11 days off a month and an unbudgeted $70 for a hotel room, a chunk of change when you earn below the poverty line. Although Babbitt didn't see these issues personally because he commuted as a major airline pilot in a different era, I think he's aware of what's going on. Despite the calls for safety at any cost, the FAA and the airlines realize that the regional industry would be irreparably damaged if commuting were regulated or prohibited.

Posted by: Matthew Inman | February 17, 2011 11:50 AM    Report this comment

I could write a book on this subject. I was an active pilot for 34 years and worked with ALPA for all of them. I was the National Chairman of the Human Performance Committee, now called the Human Factors Committie. I worked with Randy Babbitt for his entire tenure at ALPA. During that entire time he was a strong supporter of pilot work rules and rallied for more restrictions that would reduce the problems.

I suppose it doesn't take long to change sides and drop all the good things he was fighting for. I don't know exactly what was said on the ABC interview but I can tell you my experience with pilot fatigue.

I have had many times when I felt fatigue was a problem. I can relate to the one story about a pilot falling asleep while flying, it happened to me. I also commuted for 27 of the 34 years I flew and I understand that aspect of it as well. I had a crash pad along with 8 other guys and then went to the hotels. I spent many extra nights at work because I just couldn't get up at 4am, catch a flight to work, then sit around the crew lounge for hours and then fly all night to europe. It just got to hard for me to do, age does slow you down. (End of part 1)

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Posted by: Clif Walker | February 17, 2011 2:29 PM    Report this comment

I could write a book on this subject. I was an active pilot for 34 years and worked with ALPA for all of them. I was the National Chairman of the Human Performance Committee, now called the Human Factors Committie. I worked with Randy Babbitt for his entire tenure at ALPA. During that entire time he was a strong supporter of pilot work rules and rallied for more restrictions that would reduce the problems.

I suppose it doesn't take long to change sides and drop all the good things he was fighting for. I don't know exactly what was said on the ABC interview but I can tell you my experience with pilot fatigue.

I have had many times when I felt fatigue was a problem. I can relate to the one story about a pilot falling asleep while flying, it happened to me. I also commuted for 27 of the 34 years I flew and I understand that aspect of it as well. I had a crash pad along with 8 other guys and then went to the hotels. I spent many extra nights at work because I just couldn't get up at 4am, catch a flight to work, then sit around the crew lounge for hours and then fly all night to europe. It just got to hard for me to do, age does slow you down. (End of part 1)

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Posted by: Clif Walker | February 17, 2011 2:29 PM    Report this comment

The changing of age 60 will prove to be a real detriment to one's health after a few years. Its too difficult to keep the pace consistantly as you grow older. I do know why it was popular to pass it for many. When the airlines filed for bankrupsy and terminated the pensions, many couldn't afford to retire and had to work.

The comuter pilots have as many hours on duty or more than the main line pilots. They have their own set of problems that need fair and balanced contractual action, like compensation and work rules. I just hope they can get that accomplished but I don't feel confident that anything positive will happen for them.

All the responses that I have read are exactly the same that have been dealt with for many years, with no reasonable changes. I am just glad I made it through my carear without an incident.

The problem I see is, this a a pollitical battle and all of you need to participate with your union and send your message to congress. Unfortunately the current move is against making changes that are meaningful, because of monatary constraint. Working for the union can be rewarding and YOU can make a difference. Be outspoken as a group and let your congress person know. If they don't support your position, vote them out

Posted by: Clif Walker | February 17, 2011 2:30 PM    Report this comment

The changing of age 60 will prove to be a real detriment to one's health after a few years. Its too difficult to keep the pace consistantly as you grow older. I do know why it was popular to pass it for many. When the airlines filed for bankrupsy and terminated the pensions, many couldn't afford to retire and had to work.

The comuter pilots have as many hours on duty or more than the main line pilots. They have their own set of problems that need fair and balanced contractual action, like compensation and work rules. I just hope they can get that accomplished but I don't feel confident that anything positive will happen for them.

All the responses that I have read are exactly the same that have been dealt with for many years, with no reasonable changes. I am just glad I made it through my carear without an incident.

The problem I see is, this a a pollitical battle and all of you need to participate with your union and send your message to congress. Unfortunately the current move is against making changes that are meaningful, because of monatary constraint. Working for the union can be rewarding and YOU can make a difference. Be outspoken as a group and let your congress person know. If they don't support your position, vote them out

Posted by: Clif Walker | February 17, 2011 2:32 PM    Report this comment

It STILL comes down to YOU; the individual pilot, being responsible for your physical condition when YOU are at the controls. YOU must do whatever it takes to be in your best physical and mental condition; further YOU must have maintained your proficiency as a pilot on the particular aircraft you are going to fly, no matter what the Company makes available or the FAA requires. I does not make a damn bit of difference whether you are hauling cargo or souls; YOU are the one who will arrive at the scene of the accident first. If YOU survive YOU are the one who will be embarrassed at the hearing. IF you expect the guy in the right seat or the left seat or Management or the FAA to do any of this for you; you are in the wrong profession. Other than that; nobody cares what your fiscal problems are unless you owe them money.

Posted by: George A Hutchinson | February 17, 2011 3:59 PM    Report this comment

George, I completely agree with your sentiment. It's imperative to remove oneself from a flight if fatigue is a factor, but you're mistaken to consider this such a cut and dry issue. First none of us always fly in our "best physical and mental condition", we fly above a self-imposed minimum threshold of mental and physical ability. If I only flew at my absolute "best" I would probably fly less than 100 hours a year. The issue here is exactly how and where that minimum threshold is determined. None of us have a flashing red master warning for "TOO TIRED" but certainly no pilot takes off planning to crash an airplane. The regional pilots hired over the last few years are generally young and low-time, and like all of us in aviation they define their individual threshold through experience. It's much easier to look around after many years and realize what's really dangerous than to try to see it coming when you don't know what you're looking for. As pilots our job is not cut and dry, we get paid to manage risk, but something as insidious and individual as fatigue can be difficult to manage.

Posted by: Matthew Inman | February 17, 2011 9:17 PM    Report this comment

This 'problem' of pilot work rules and pay plan has been grist for the mill for the 38+ years I've been in aviation. And the truth has not changed over the years that too many pilot applicants chasing too few positions causes the problem. As long as there is an abundant supply of people willing to subject themselves to years of low pay and poor working conditions in return for the crushing debt they've incurred from tuition and training fees, things will not improve for the aspiring, neophyte pilot.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | February 18, 2011 1:14 AM    Report this comment

quit flying and go drive a truck. Its better money and working schedules, given the gov hours of service restrictions...+You have your own bunk with you.

Posted by: Nathan Gilpin | February 18, 2011 7:15 AM    Report this comment

Matthew you know I don't mean I was in the epiptome of physical conditioning for any of my 28,500+ hours of flight. I started out feeling like I was in a physical condition that I could acomplish my assigned schedule without a problem. Surely you also know that I have occasionally ended up; completely worn down, just breaking even, wondering how I got there. Some trips I completed at age 25; in the "olden days", I could not have survived at age 65 with the Airline.

Posted by: George A Hutchinson | February 18, 2011 12:51 PM    Report this comment

George and Matthew, I agree with both of you. Its part of the point of was making in my previous comment. Having enough courage to say I am to tired is very difficult for lots of enexperienced pilots and some with the regionals as well. Those restrictions need to be changed and the pilots need to be taught how to make those decisions. Safety is important and its not all about reading a checklist. Good common sense is necessary too.

Posted by: Clif Walker | February 18, 2011 5:23 PM    Report this comment

Yep. Pride will kill you, and you better reserve some strength for that last approach. It may be a booger. That and the minimums on the approach plate WERE only a suggestion to me. When the going gets tough the tough abandon the approach when it starts getting out of hand. I'll abandon this before I start reminiscing about the last 65 years.

Posted by: George A Hutchinson | February 18, 2011 7:09 PM    Report this comment

Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. Iíd prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you donít mind. Natually Iíll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing. cursos idiomas extranjero

Posted by: darren sy | February 20, 2011 2:13 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the great forum. Since there are quite a few airline pilots here I thought everyone might enjoy this "day in the life" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIAIJvXLm7U

Posted by: Matthew Inman | February 20, 2011 6:41 PM    Report this comment

George,

If you really think that not flying tired or fatigued is that simple. You my friend have never flown professionally.

Posted by: Mike Doherty | February 21, 2011 10:01 AM    Report this comment

ALPA has an obvious selfish interest in increasing crew rest time. I'd say that taints their input to this controversy.

Posted by: John Dill | February 21, 2011 11:44 AM    Report this comment

The topic of this entire blog is flying tired is it real or fiction. I think everyone here could say its very real. There are degrees of tired and each pilot needs to decide when its to the point that he and he alone should decide to sit this one out.

Posted by: Clif Walker | February 21, 2011 11:45 AM    Report this comment

If ALPA or other pilot groups have a vested interest, or "obvious selfish interest in increasing crew rest time".... then, it seems exactly as "obviously selfish interest'' for management groups' opinions on this matter as equally tainted. Gotta look for the right and true, and stick to it and NOT 'be-devil' the other opinion, or accuse of selfishness.

Posted by: Howard Bunte | February 21, 2011 12:16 PM    Report this comment

Obviously, there are truths to both or every side of this issue. I don't know how to make this pleasant for everyone but many folks who show up for work tired have no one to blame but themselves. Flying is not an "easy" occupation. One must devote time and effort to one, staying alive;two, doing one's best; three, being a 'family' person. However, in the interest of being here in the future for one's self and one's children and spouse, one should dedicate oneself to doing the job without having "sleep" problems.

If on a trip, that means getting to bed, not howling for a couple of hours (do that at home), being rested and willing to be responsible for the duties required. That is only an opening comment. Perhaps, more to come later.

Thanks, BZ

Posted by: William Zollinger | February 21, 2011 1:47 PM    Report this comment

Mike; I got paid for flying 4 years for MATS; then 31 years for AAL. Commuting is like hitting youself on the head with the proverbial hammer. I "lost money" by NOT commuting, but not sleep. That was MY choice. FYI: I am well acquainted with "tired".

Posted by: George A Hutchinson | February 21, 2011 3:08 PM    Report this comment

Back in the days when you could jump seat in the cockpit as a 135 pilot I used to go all over and in many airlines, commuters, and cargo flights. I would say that in probably 80% of those flights longer than an hour at least one of the crew members was taking a nap and sometimes even on the shorter flights. This is definitely not anything new. Also most of the corporate pilots I knew or worked with took naps in between flights in the pilot lounges.

Posted by: Duane Hallman | February 21, 2011 5:26 PM    Report this comment

Hal Gosling has made an important point: time is precious, and the normal taxi-to-hotel routine takes too long.

This factor dovetails with the money problem to put stress on the pilot.

If I were king, I'd shoehorn a sleep-cubicle motel for crew members into commercial airports. The pilots and crew would have the option of walking less than five minutes from the airplane to a quiet sleep cubicle with clean sheets, a microwave oven, and a 'fridge with meals.

The next morning, the pilot would wake up with the maximum possible sleep and minimum worries about financial stress.

If the airlines gave a crap about their human assets, they would have done that long ago.

Posted by: John Schubert | February 21, 2011 7:35 PM    Report this comment

As a career pilot for a major airline, I have observed the fatigue factor first hand even in the majors--I can only fear what it is in the regionals given their managements' demands and salaries.

I think that Randy Babbit has conveniently forgotten his long past years in another era of airline pilot service.

Posted by: David Winter | February 21, 2011 9:58 PM    Report this comment

Having flown 17+09 hours in one day and having a 4 man crew to legally cover up to a 20 hour duty day, with a marginal dedicated rest seat, I can honestly say that fatigue is a very real way of life for more pilots than one might think. Based on when you start your legal 20 hour duty day only determines how tired all 4 pilots will be at the end.

Posted by: Joe Horwatt | February 22, 2011 3:03 AM    Report this comment

As a mainline FO, I can only speak for myself. I commute by driving three hours to my base. I leave my house at 0200 for a 0515 report and fly a 12hr 20 minute duty day. That's day one of a 5-day trip which has me crossing the Pacific twice and switching from the front side to the back side of the clock more that once. The sleep deprivation is cumulative. By the end of a trip, I'm exhausted. Many times, I return home only to be worthless to my family because I'm just exhausted and need the time to literally recover from the trip.

The sad part to me is that what we have now contractually is better than what the FAA is proposing. The only exception is that under the PRM rest will start at the hotel as opposed to block-out plus 15 for us.

So, to sum it up, under better rules than what the FAA is proposing, I'm tired and not as safe as I should be.

Sully is right. What they're proposing is not enough.

Posted by: Terry Jamison | February 22, 2011 11:43 AM    Report this comment

One day I was lucky enough to fly a 15hr duty day after a reduced rest over night with 9 legs in a turbo prop feeding NWA. Trying to jump seat home I had to listen to how tired the DC-9 crew was because of their horrible 4 leg day! I was just happy to be in the back and I passed out until we hit the ground in MSP.

Posted by: Mike Doherty | February 22, 2011 10:52 PM    Report this comment

I've been out of the game for eight years now. But, I remember the joy of pushing to get to work because a flight, or flights, to MIA had been canceled. Finally getting on the last flight that had a chance of getting to work on time and checking in with crew schedule from the jumpseat so they knew I would be there.

I also remember the crew lounge in MIA with its recliners and a full house of sleeping commuters. Randy should remember that. It was EAL's home.

Hotels with a 4H convention and teenagers "bowling" outside your door in the afternoon when you are "resting" for a red-eye from SEA to JFK with a dawn arrival were, and still are, legal. However, the crew was not especially rested.

I think that a lot of what is scheduled is paper legal, but not in the best interests of the crew. It still comes down to cost for the company.

Posted by: Unknown | February 23, 2011 1:10 PM    Report this comment

I served ALPA for five years on the national Commitee responding to NPRM to make things much worse for all pilots. 100 hours, no prescribed rest, 16 hours block time. It was bad and it was only half way defeated. The FAA wrote a rule based on 8 hours rest, block to block. The assumption by the FAA was that the airlines would never do that, but would schecule at least 9 hours rest. We went along, because the regional pilots were included and anyway it was better than no duty day, which is what we had. Russia had better work rules for their pilots. art magill piedmont/us air retd

Posted by: art magill | February 25, 2011 5:45 PM    Report this comment

Regulations seem to have been always mandated after a body count. I hope this one was big enough... The Russians????

Posted by: Joe Horwatt | February 27, 2011 12:39 AM    Report this comment

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