AVmail: April 30, 2012
Letter of the Week: How Much Rest?
My answer to the "Question of the Week" on the crew rest issue is that personal sleep needs do vary, according to scientists. This is why they give a range rather than an absolute value.
The challenge with the FAA (the regulator) and the industry (the certificate holder) is that both are looking for the absolute minimum versus the safest solution. Safety does cost. It is like the old motor oil commercial: "You can pay me now or pay me later." The FAA is afraid to institute the requirements that will ensure all pilots get proper rest, stating it is the responsibility of the pilot to report fit for duty. They bend to pressure from the airline and cargo industry who cry it will put them out of business. If the rules are the same for all, the cost is the same for all, so that argument is lame.
Pilots will report for duty fit as long as reporting they are not fit doesn't cost them their jobs. Pilots don't make the schedules; the companies do, which is why the regulator is responsible for making sensible rules to guide these schedules. Put on your common sense hat: Do you really want to put you and your family on a plane flying over the Amazon in the middle of the night knowing that the pilots were not properly rested?
The arguing point is whether four or 12 hours is enough rest to ensure that. Wouldn't you rather bet on the safe side versus the minimum value?
Former National Safety Committee Chairman, Allied Pilots Association
I found early east coast wake-ups as a west coast pilot devastating to my performance. If I showed at the airport at 6-7am Eastern (3-4am Pacific), I would be dopey the entire day.
I could handle reasonable back-of-the-clock flying as long as the flight did not involve an enroute stop or interruption of a few hours. I could handle three or four hours non-stop on the back of the clock, but an all-nighter to the east coast departing at midnight west coast [time] was devastating to my performance in the morning [on the] east coast.
The standard early evening east coast departure for Europe is tough, as is the return from Europe with a morning departure from the continent.
As a former USAF pilot involved in the Linebacker2 operations in Vietnam in 1972, I can tell you from firsthand experience that our sleep guidelines were waived by command staff and that resulted in several aircraft being lost due to pilot fatigue. Ten hours of rest for people on a regular schedule is essential to safe operations. It is absolutely ludicrous to think that cargo pilots are any different!
With all due respect, while the answers to various personal rest limits may be interesting, I don't think they are too pertinent to the discussion at hand. Unless you've flown airline schedules, with at least one less-than-nine-hour "rest period" every week and constantly changing days, hours of work, and number of days off, I don't think you can really have a valid opinion. I think the new rest rules are long overdue!
If you'd allowed for fewer hours than eight, I would have checked [choice] number one. I rarely sleep longer than six hours, and that seems to be just right for me. If I have a long flight ahead, I do need those six hours.