Airlines, Labor Dig In on Pilot Duty Rule Exemption

 - January 14, 2013, 9:40 AM
The FAA’s new pilot duty rule, which excludes all-cargo operators, adequately protects both passenger and cargo airline crews, according to A4A president and CEO Nicholas Calio. (Photo: A4A)

The line has sharpened between airlines and labor groups over the FAA’s decision to exclude all-cargo operations from its new, stricter pilot flight duty rule, scheduled to take effect in January next year. Airlines for America (A4A), the trade organization representing major U.S. airlines, issued a statement on January 7 reaffirming its support of the duty rule as published and urging Congress to reject new legislation that would change the rule to include all-cargo carriers.

In December, the FAA said that it had reviewed its original “regulatory impact” analysis of the rule as it relates to all-cargo operations and determined that it needs no changes. In that supplemental analysis, the agency revised its projected cost of compliance for cargo operations from $306 million to $550 million over 12 years.

A4A issued its statement in response to legislation filed by New York congressmen Michael Grimm (R) and Tim Bishop (D) on January 4 that would require the Secretary of Transportation to modify the new Part 117 duty rule to apply to all-cargo operations. The legislation, H.R.182, was referred to the House Transportation Committee. Last year, former Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack introduced similar legislation in the previous Congressional session. Cravaack since lost a reelection bid.

A4A has called the latest proposed legislation “ill-advised, with no basis in science or relevant data.” The FAA’s rule “continues to put the safe operation of passenger and cargo airlines first for customers and crewmembers,” said Nicholas Calio, the association’s president and CEO. “All stakeholders actively participated in the rulemaking, which was composed of a scientific review of existing safety measures, fatigue mitigations and diverse airline operating environments.”

The Independent Pilots Association (IPA), which represents UPS pilots, has petitioned in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to compel the FAA to reconsider the rulemaking. The court challenge is ongoing. An IPA spokesman said the association also plans to respond to the FAA’s supplemental regulatory impact analysis by the February 11 comment deadline. He declined to comment on the A4A statement.

In a blog post, Ed Wytkind, president of the transportation trades department of the AFL-CIO, defends the proposed legislation. “Predictably, large cargo carriers and the airline lobby have already spoken out opposing this common-sense solution, and are spreading their old and tired ‘voodoo science’ arguments in Washington to hold on to a [cargo exemption] that puts profits ahead of safety,” Wytkind wrote.


I have flown 121 passenger and combi operations (Eastern) and all frieght operations (Kitty Hawk). I can assure you that the all freight "fly all night, sleep all day" schedules are infinitely more tiring that any passenger trip. Freight pilots invariably draw hotel rooms above the dumpster pickup location, hotel maids are trained that the "do not disturb" signs mean "run the vacuum here and knock frequently", and desk clerks upon seeing a freight crew at 9 AM are trained to use the phrase "your room will be ready in an hour". To exempt these pilots from the new rules is absolutely insane. If an A4A executive was forced to fly a week with an ATA, UPS, or Fed EX crew it might give him/her an insight into the real world of these operations. To exclude these crews is a set up for disaster.

The fact that the FAA is still willing to exempt cargo operators from the new time and duty rules just shows that the FAA is not serious about dealing with this issue at all!!!

The fact that the FAA is still willing to exempt cargo operators from the new time and duty rules just shows that the FAA is not serious about dealing with this issue at all!!!

Matt is correct. Most cargo operations are backside of the clock and are far more demanding due to the asynchronization of the body clock. Most cargo cockpit crew are in a constant state of chronic fatigue due to odd working hours and having to mesh with the rest of the world, when off the clock. Review most of the cases of "pilot error" events and you will find that inadequate or disturbed rest periods preceded them. So, how is flying boxes safer in the same airspace, but with more fatigued crews operating in low light environments?

All of this has to do with profit and loss, not safety.

The British CAA knew about this and mandated reduced hours and legs due to time of day operations, decades ago!

In the current climate of confrontation in Washington I surely do not want my response to this announcement to be seen as ad hominen and dubious emotionalism but Mr Calio you are a moron. To ignore the pure and simple science available on this subject in order to satisfy your constituency is frankly criminal. On many flights during a monthly schedule pilots flying freighters are in terms of mental awareness and motor skills, just as goofy as some one who is legally drunk. If a plane crashes due to pilot fatigue it does not matter if there are people or packages on board, your job is to protect the industry and ignoring this problem speaks to your incompetency.

Since there are no passengers to endanger aboard a cargo/package flight, it is of no concern to any of these nice people what happens to the freight dogs hauling said loads.

The first time an aircraft goes down in a populated area killing a few dozen folks on the ground, they'll rethink their strategy.

Sad, but true.

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