RAA, Airlines Lose Duty-time Battle

 - April 17, 2008, 6:18 AM

The Regional Airline Association will not challenge a May 31 Appeals Court ruling that upheld the legality of a new FAA interpretation of a long-standing duty-time rule, according to RAA technical affairs director Dave Lotterer. The ruling, issued by a District of Columbia circuit court judge, allows the FAA to enforce a November 2000 clarification of a 1985 rule that limits pilot duty days to 16 hr under FAR Part 121. As a result, pilots may not exceed their duty limits even in the event of “uncontrollable circumstances,” forcing airlines to adjust crew schedules to reflect changing weather or traffic conditions.

In a motion filed last September, RAA argued that the FAA violated its own Administrative Procedures Act by circumventing the required notice and comment process for any new rule. An appeals court suspended the district court’s original ruling, leading to the appeals process that began in January and ended with the court’s final ruling last month. At press time RAA and Air Transport Association officials were coordinating plans to meet with FAA officials to discuss logistical and procedural considerations.

“The systems in place now with most regional airlines do not use ACARS to keep track of pilots’ schedules,” reminded Lotterer. “Somebody’s going to have to keep track of those times manually. The difficulty with this decision is the unknowns. It’s going to come down to judgment calls. If you send a crew to an outstation that
doesn’t have additional crewmembers, you’re gambling they might get stuck there.”