Eyeing Pilots Hours

Eyeing Pilots Hours

Copyright 2004, Traffic World, Inc.

A member of the National Transportation Safety Board says a crash of a FedEx freighter caused partly by pilot error suggests the airline industry should look at tighter hours of service limitations such as those in the trucking industry.

Carol Carmody''s comments came after the NTSB blamed a series of pilot-related concerns for the July 26, 2002 crash of a FedEx 727-200 in Tallahassee, Fla. The NTSB blamed the crash on pilot fatigue, an improper approach to the airport and the first officer''s colorblindness.

The three crewmembers escaped without serious injury but the plane was destroyed by fire.

The report was the second in the past month that pointed to pilot problems in FedEx crashes.

Part of the problem in the July 2002 crash, investigators found, was the inherent nature of night cargo flights. Even if they are used to the schedule, people are naturally less alert in the early morning hours. The crash occurred at 5:37 a.m. Two crewmembers reported to investigators that they had slept poorly before the flight.

Carmody said the findings call for a Federal Aviation Administration rule on hours of service for pilots. The FAA in 2001 considered designing such regulations to build on current flight-and-duty time restrictions but has not addressed the issue since.

NTSB Human Performance Group Chairman Malcom Brenner said the NTSB considers fatigue in all modes of transportation one of its most important issues.

In the FedEx 2002 crash, NTSB Operations Group Chairman Dave Ivey said the crew switched runways from the flight plan to a runway without updated lighting. As it turned out, the first officer had "severe" colorblindness and could not distinguish the lights on the landing approach.

The first officer held an FAA waiver that allowed him to fly commercially after a long career as a Navy aviator.

Preliminary NTSB findings released in May about a December 2003 FedEx accident in Memphis also point toward pilot problems. In that instance, a flight from Oakland during the company''s busy holiday season slid off the runway at the Memphis airport after a hard landing.

The pilot had failed several flying proficiency exams over the years, the NTSB said in a release of findings on the crash.