FAA to reconsider rest exclusion for cargo flights

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Published: May 18, 2012

UPS pilots says the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will reconsider its decision to exclude cargo carriers from a slate of new crew rest rules finalised in December.

“Last night in a surprise move, the FAA admitted that it ‘discovered errors’ during the course of preparing its court papers,” says the Independent Pilots Association (IPA), which represents UPS pilots, in an 18 May statement. “The FAA now says it is ready to provide the relief requested by the [IPA] , and will take another look at whether cargo pilots should be excluded from new rest rules published in December.”

Key elements of the rule, which passenger airlines will have two years to implement from December 2011, include requiring a minimum 10h rest period for pilots before a flight, up 2h from the current rule; defining flight duty time to include deadheading, simulator training and other duties as assigned by the airline, and requiring pilots to have at least 30h consecutive duty-free time on a weekly basis, a 25% increase from current rules.

There are also new monthly limits and a stipulation that a pilot sign off on the flight plan before a flight that he or she is fit for duty. Airlines will be required to switch out pilots who have determined they are not fit for duty.

US Transportation Department secretary Ray LaHood had said when the rule was finalised in December that cargo airlines could impose the rules voluntarily, a decision the IPA had said “makes as much sense as allowing truckers to ‘opt-out’ of drunk driving laws”.

“To potentially allow fatigued cargo pilots to share the same skies with properly rested passenger pilots creates an unnecessary threat to public safety,” said Robert Travis, president of the IPA, in December. IPA later filed a lawsuit over the rules.

The IPA says the FAA “discovered errors in calculating the scope of costs associated with the implementation of the regulations (rest rules) for all cargo operations”, and as a result will “reopen the record by issuing a supplemental regulatory evaluation strictly limited to the application of the new regulations to all-cargo operations.”

“In the context of our lawsuit, the FAA is now willing to allow for an open and public examination of the costs and benefits of having one level of aviation safety,” says Travis. “The IPA welcomes this development”.

The FAA was not immediately available for comment.

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