FAA Acknowledges 'Errors' in Promulgating Duty Rule

 - May 28, 2012, 10:45 AM
Margaret Gilligan, the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, right, explains the agency’s case for excluding all-cargo carriers from its new pilot duty rule at an Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) conference in April. At left sits Deborah Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. (Photo: Chris Weaver, ALPA)

The FAA asked a federal appeals court in the U.S. to temporarily suspend a lawsuit challenging the exclusion of all-cargo airlines from its new pilot duty rule so that it can correct “newly discovered errors” in the administrative record supporting the regulation.

Justice Department attorneys representing the FAA filed a motion May 17 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asking that a petition by the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) be held in “abeyance,” or suspended, while the agency revisits the case for excluding all-cargo operations from the duty rule. A copy of the motion provided by the IPA states that “in the interest of fairness and transparency, the FAA believes that it is appropriate to reopen the record” through a supplemental regulatory evaluation.

Among its provisions, the new Part 117 flight crewmember duty and rest rule, issued December 21, requires that pilots receive a minimum of 10 hours rest before each flight duty period, an increase of two hours; places new limits on the numbers of hours a pilot can fly weekly and monthly; and extends the length of consecutive hours off in a seven-day period to 30 from 24. While the regulation applies to Part 121 passenger carriers, the FAA excluded all-cargo operations “because their compliance costs significantly exceed the quantified societal benefits,” according to the ruling. The new regulation takes effect on Jan. 14, 2014.

On December 22 the IPA, which represents 2,650 UPS cargo pilots, petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals to review the regulation. Justice Department attorneys responsible for filing the FAA’s brief in that case instead filed the May 17 motion. “During the course of reviewing the administrative record…the FAA discovered errors in calculating the scope of costs associated with the implementation of the regulations for all-cargo operations,” the motion states. “These errors are of sufficient amount that the FAA believes that it is prudent to review the portion of its cost-benefit analysis related to all-cargo operations and allow interested parties an opportunity to comment on that analysis.”

“This is the type of relief we asked the court to provide in our brief filed in April,” said IPA general counsel William Trent in a May 18 statement. “A flawed cost-benefit formula, issued at the last minute, without opportunity for public comment and examination, was at the core of our legal objections to the FAA’s exclusion of cargo pilots from new science-based pilot rest rules.” ’