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.