Pilot Fatigue Rules Delayed Again

 - October 2, 2011, 10:15 PM

Regulations to combat pilot fatigue–which FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said will migrate to Part 135 operations–have been delayed past the August 1 deadline set by Congress. People familiar with the issues say release of the new rules for Part 121 scheduled airlines now could be weeks or months away.

Some even believe it could be pushed into next year, although the target release date is now late November. Under the proposed rules, airlines, cargo and charter operators would be required to add relief pilots and provide onboard rest facilities and sleeping accommodations at destinations.

Even though the Air Line Pilots Association International supports the new flight-, duty- and rest-time regulations, last-minute lobbying of the White House by charter and cargo airlines delayed release of a notice of proposed rulemaking.

ALPA ran a full-page advertisement in the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico calling for “one level of safety” for all passengers, crews and cargo airlines. The union pointed out that many airlines that provide logistical airlift as contractors for the U.S. military operate under FAR 121 supplemental regulations, which according to the ad do not require the same standard of safety as scheduled commercial airlines.

The ad pictured flag-draped caskets purported to be from the 1985 crash in Gander of an Arrow Air DC-8 that was carrying troops from the 101st Airborne Division traveling home for the holidays. The ad carried a headline that said: “Flight and duty time is a safety regulation.”

ALPA, which is the world’s largest pilot union, said the rule is being held up at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which reviews proposed federal regulations. “This is a safety regulation, and it is unacceptable that the OMB appears to have been pressured by a few companies whose goal is advancing their own competitive interests rather than ensuring the safety of the U.S. air transportation system,” said ALPA president Lee Moak.

The National Air Carrier Association, which represents smaller unscheduled carriers, accused ALPA of using “scare tactics” to pressure the White House on the fatigue issue in an August 3 letter to the FAA. That was the same day the ALPA ad appeared in Politico.