Rest Rules Could Create Pilot Shortage?

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American Airlines says proposed rules intended to reduce pilot fatigue would require it to hire an additional 2,325 pilots at a cost of $514 million annually, and seemed to suggest the industry-wide effect could be crippling. The rules would effectively decrease maximum time on duty for pilots. In November, American offered public comments on the rules, saying "if AA needs 2,300 more pilots to meet the proposed rules, other certificate holders will need many additional pilots, too." Stakeholders also claim that the regulation's cost will be substantially higher than the FAA's estimate of $1.25 billion over 10 years. The Air Transport Association says the rule would cost more than 15 times that figure. As for the total number of pilots needed to meet the requirements of the bill, American said, "The industry figure will be so large as to raise the question of from where they all will come." American wasn't the only carrier to express concern.

Southwest commented on the proposal, saying "we feel than many of the rule changes will impact our operation as dramatically, if not more so, than the impact on any other carrier." The proposed rules call for nine hours rest between shifts and 30 consecutive hours away from work, each week. The proposal arose with support of people who lost family members in the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407. There were no survivors of that flight, so the exact role of fatigue is unknown. However, the investigation found that neither member of the cockpit crew had slept in a bed the night before the crash, both had long commutes, and fatigue may have affected crew performance. In February 2010, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman called the crash "an opportunity to reexamine fatigue in aviation."

Fatigue in aviation has been on the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements since 1990. The FAA accepted comments on the proposed rules (PDF) through Nov. 15, 2010.