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New FAA proposed rules on pilot safety garner union praise

Proposed rules announced last week by the Federal Aviation Authority would eliminate current distinctions between rest requirements for domestic, international, and unscheduled flights as part of the agency’s attempts to stregthen air safety. In addition to removing that distinction, the new rules would also create different rest requirements that would take into account the time of day and number of scheduled segments of a given flight, and would also consider factors such as time zones, type of flights, and likelihood that a pilot is able to sleep under different circumstances. The agency also intends to increase the minimum opportunity for rest before duty periods to nine hours (a one-hour increase) and to adopt new ways to measure a pilot’s rest period, in an effort to ensure pilots are able to get least eight hours of sleep during that rest period. The proposed rules would also deal with cumulative fatigue by placing weekly and 28-day limits on how much time pilots may be assigned to any type of duty. Additionally, the rules would give pilots at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty on a weekly basis, a 25 percent increase over existing rules.

“This proposal is a significant enhancement for aviation safety,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Both pilots and passengers will benefit from these proposed rules that will continue to ensure the safety of our nation’s air transportation system.” The 60-day public comment period will end on November 13, 2010.

John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, praised the FAA rulemaking. “We are pleased that the FAA has released a regulatory proposal on this extremely important safety issue,” Prater said, noting that ALPA participated in the FAA’s Flight/Duty Time Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which submitted recommendations to the FAA in September 2009. Prater promised to thoroughly examine the proposed rules, though. “Our Flight Time/Duty Time Committee will carefully review this proposal and provide any feedback that may be necessary to ensure the highest safety standards for our nation’s air transportation system.”