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FDX-Just in for your 777 bid

Old 03-14-2009, 11:50 PM
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FAA Drops Its Rest Plan for Pilots on Long Hauls - WSJ

FAA Drops Its Rest Plan for Pilots on Long Hauls - WSJ.com

By ANDY PASZTOR
After years of disputes with airlines over ways to reduce fatigue in the cockpit, federal aviation regulators this week withdrew a proposal mandating extra rest for U.S. pilots flying the longest international routes.

The Federal Aviation Administration's decision jettisons, at least for the time being, a policy which senior officials had championed as an important safety measure. By establishing new standards for the longest routes, the agency had hoped to set a precedent for addressing the broader issue of pilot fatigue throughout the industry. The agency had been pushing for additional rest for pilots before, during and after these long-haul runs.

The airline industry opposed the initiative, which would have mandated longer layovers for pilots and could have required some carriers to redesign cabins to provide additional sleeping areas for flight crews. Less than a month ago, the FAA asked a federal judge to throw out industry challenges to enhanced crew-rest on so-called ultralong-range routes, or nonstop flights lasting 16 hours or longer.

But earlier this week, the agency informed airlines, pilot unions and other groups it was dropping the proposal based on industry comments. "We remain committed to addressing the issue of fatigue" on such flights, "but believe additional data is necessary," an agency email said.

An FAA spokeswoman said Friday the agency will "work with airlines over the next year to gather data that will help us determine the safety requirements for these flights."

Although a number of carriers have indicated they will voluntarily comply with some provisions, it's still a setback for proponents of tougher fatigue-prevention schedules. Carriers had been concerned that by agreeing to the new policy, they could be opening the door to further FAA restrictions that could be imposed on their operations outside of the standard rule-making process.

The proposal was a building block for the FAA's campaign to use the latest research findings to revise pilot-scheduling rules that basically haven't been updated for decades. Various FAA initiatives have stalled over the years due to disagreements between airlines and pilot groups.

In late 2006 Delta Air Lines Inc. agreed to special operating restrictions on its New York-Mumbai run, but later scrapped that route for commercial reasons. The FAA hoped to hammer out similar restrictions with other carriers.

Last summer, when negotiations over voluntary changes in ultralong-range schedules seemed to be making progress, Peggy Gilligan, a senior FAA safety official, said the goal was to "better apply what we know from science" to enhance safety, sometimes by going outside traditional rule-making procedures. "We will reach some kind of agreement," she predicted at the time. A spokeswoman on Friday said Ms. Gilligan, who is now the agency's top safety official, wasn't available for comment.

Despite years of joint industry-government analyses and fatigue study groups, the FAA continues to face strong opposition from the airline industry. The impasse over these routes -- including nonstop flights by Continental Airlines Inc. from Newark, N.J. to Hong Kong and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines flights between Chicago and Delhi -- comes as outside experts express concern that tired and sleepy pilots are one of the major safety issues confronting U.S. commercial aviation. Some foreign airlines and regulators have already made significant strides in reducing such risks.

On flights lasting longer than eight hours, additional pilots typically are assigned to relieve crew members. But when nonstop flights are scheduled for 16 hours or more, even four-person cockpit crews work beyond that traditional eight-hour per day limit.

The now-stalled proposal allowed some pilots to be behind the controls for a total of more than the current eight-hour limit during a single workday. In return, airlines would have guaranteed extra-long crew rest periods before takeoff, various fatigue-prevention techniques during trips and as many as two full days of rest for pilots after arriving overseas.

When the FAA released the proposal last fall, it said "the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and studies indicate that people can have significant levels of fatigue" toward the end of such long flights that "may adversely affect safety." Since traditional flight-time rules never contemplated such lengthy trips and grueling schedules, the agency also said "it is appropriate to be cautious" by relying on extra safeguards "to maintain a high level of safety for the traveling public."

American and Continental, which filed suit with a number of other carriers to block the FAA's proposal on procedural grounds, have argued that the scheduling restrictions wouldn't make pilots more alert or in the end, enhance safety.

For years, the FAA has been criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board for failing to impose tougher, wide-ranging fatigue-prevention rules. The proposal affecting long-haul routes was an example of agency efforts to begin tailoring restrictions as a way to target portions of the industry perceived to have the greatest fatigue risks.

óChristopher Conkey contributed to this article.
Write to Andy Pasztor at [email protected]
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Old 03-15-2009, 01:23 AM
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Email the FAA expressing your disappointment in their dropping the fight for stricter and safer rest requirements for both ULH Flying as well as other flying (if that's how you feel).

I did.

Contact the Aviation Safety Hotline
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Old 03-15-2009, 02:18 AM
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Thanks for the link - I hope they get flooded with thoughtful and persuesive messages from the guys that care about personal safety more than a bigger profit margin.
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Old 03-15-2009, 02:22 AM
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I sure sent them my thoughts. Takes no more than 5 minutes of your time. Glad someone else is too.
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Old 03-15-2009, 02:36 AM
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Sent my concerns, as well. (well knowing that without a large lobbyist pocket, my concerns unfortunately are falling on deaf ears...)
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Old 03-15-2009, 04:41 AM
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Done. But like AirHead328 said...
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Old 03-15-2009, 05:23 AM
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Question. Won't this possibly make the 777 schedules more attractive? Same pay for fewer days away from base.
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Old 03-15-2009, 05:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Busdrivr
Question. Won't this possibly make the 777 schedules more attractive? Same pay for fewer days away from base.
Sure. MEM-Delhi with 16 off vs. 48.
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Old 03-15-2009, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by cma2407
Sure. MEM-Delhi with 16 off vs. 48.
Exactly, I think you get it. MEM-CAN-MEM. Pay will be the same if you do it in 3 days or 6 days. :shake head back and forth:
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Old 03-15-2009, 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Busdrivr
Question. Won't this possibly make the 777 schedules more attractive? Same pay for fewer days away from base.
And...won't it INCREASE number of bodies required to fly those routes if crew-rest is reduced? (Helping the overmanning situation...)
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