Friday, September 10, 2010

Changes in Pilot rests rules in the works

Airlines would be required to give pilots longer minimum rest periods and scale back overall duty time under a US government proposal aimed at combating fatigue in the cockpit.

The Federal Aviation Administration changes, if finalized, could force airlines to hire more pilots, change flight schedules, and revamp negotiated union work rules.

Major carriers are very sensitive to any mandate that would raise costs just as their finances are improving following a recession-driven downturn.

Unionized pilots have been pushing for more flexible schedules.

Under pressure from families of the victims of a commuter air crash last year in New York that killed 49 people and raised questions about crew scheduling, Congress required new efforts on pilot fatigue and training this summer.

The FAA proposed a nine-hour minimum rest period prior to flying, geared toward ensuring adequate sleep. That would be a one-hour increase over current rules.

To prevent fatigue over weekly and monthly schedules, the FAA proposed new limits on the amount of time a pilot can be on duty. For instance, pilots must receive at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty weekly, a 25 percent increase over current rules.

The proposal is subject to a 60-day public comment period.


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