The FAA has denied a request by the Regional Airline Association and Air Transport Association to defer enforcement of its November interpretation of a long-standing flight-duty-time rule, setting the stage for a new legal battle to start with petitions from both organizations for a court-ordered stay. Earlier this year both ATA and RAA filed motions with the U.S. Court of Appeals to block the FAA’s new interpretation of the FAR Part 121 rule. However, case backlog would not allow the court to hear arguments until after the rule’s December 12 implementation date. As a last resort, the associations petitioned the FAA to delay enforcement until the legal cases went to court.
The new interpretation of the rule removes ground delays from the generally accepted list of uncontrollable circumstances that allow pilots to exceed their duty limits of 16 hr. Most disturbing to RAA, however, remains the change that requires pilots to “look back” after every arrival to find an eight-hour scheduled rest period during the previous 24 hours. Under the new interpretation, the “look back” provision will apply to unscheduled time as well, meaning dispatchers and flight crews may have to adjust their duty schedules after each flight.