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US Airways pilots alarmed at FAA’s continued delay in issuing new flight and duty iime rules

The US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA), representing the pilots at US Airways, is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue new Flight Time/Duty Time Regulations without further delay. The latest deadline for publication — August 1st — has passed, and the process for receiving input was concluded last year. While the aviation industry waits on the FAA, it is USAPA’s opinion that safety is being compromised.

On Feb 12, 2009, Continental Connection (Colgan) Flight 3407 crashed in Buffalo, New York killing 49 passengers and the crew, as well as one person on the ground. Fatigue was cited by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a contributory factor in this accident, and it is only the most recent of a long list of fatal accidents attributed to fatigue. The NTSB has been calling on the FAA to modify Flight and Duty Time regulations for over 20 years, however, to-date, the FAA has failed to revise the rules.

In the wake of the Continental Connection Flight 3407 crash, Congress took action and passed H.R. 5900, The Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010. Contained within this legislation is a requirement that the FAA develop and issue new rules modifying Flight and Duty Time regulations by August 1st, 2011. The FAA completed the requirements of this rulemaking over a year ago but has refused to issue the regulation.

It is USAPA’s judgment that the FAA and the White House are under tremendous pressure from the industry lobbyists including the Airline Transport Association (ATA) to place economics before safety. Further, cargo carriers are arguing that they should have less stringent regulations, something with which USAPA vehemently disagrees. In USAPA’s opinion, there should exist one level of safety, to include all pilots, including those involved in the transport of goods. Captain Mike Cleary, President of USAPA, added, “It’s time for the FAA to do their job and protect the safety of the traveling public. In the face of the airline industry’s deteriorating commitment to safety, the FAA needs to step in and show leadership on many fronts. First and foremost, the FAA should adhere to the mandates of law and issue the new Flight and Duty time regulation. While we are aware of FAA Administrator Babbitt’s staunch commitment to FTDT reform during his prior tenure as President of the Air Line Pilots Association, we are concerned that industry lobbying groups may have weakened the Administrator’s resolve to act in a timely and meaningful way.”

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