US Senators Introduce Legislation to Extend Fatigue Rules to Cargo Pilots

US Senators Introduce Legislation to Extend Fatigue Rules to Cargo Pilots

The press event for the Safe Skies Act of 2013 at the U.S. Capitol. Source: Coalition of Airline Pilots Association

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have introduced legislation that would align hours of service requirements for cargo plane pilots with those that now apply to pilots of passenger aircraft.

After the 2009 crash of Colgan Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, N.Y., Congress passed legislation by Boxer and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, directing the Department of Transportation to write new rules to address fatigue for pilots of passenger planes. Under these requirements, which will take effect in January 2014, pilots of passenger planes will be limited to flying either eight or nine hours (depending on the start time) and airlines will be required to provide pilots with a minimum of 10 rest hours, with at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

However, pilots of cargo planes were left out of the DOT’s new rest rules, allowing those pilots to be on duty for up to 16 hours a day. The Safe Skies Act of 2012, which was introduced in June of that year, was never enacted; the new Safe Skies Act of 2013 aims to bring rules for cargo pilots in line with those for passenger aircraft pilots.

“This legislation will ensure that pilots of passenger planes and cargo planes are flying under the same standard,” Boxer said at a press event at the U.S. Capitol.

“Whether flying a passenger or a cargo plane, pilot fatigue can have tragic consequences,” Klobuchar said. “That’s why we need consistent rules throughout the aviation system to help prevent any tragedies.”

The Safe Skies Act has also been introduced in the House by Reps. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y.

“Just because pilots are transporting cargo instead of passengers, doesn’t make them or the crewmembers less tired after a long flight; the level of fatigue remains the same,” Grimm said.

“Passenger airline and cargo pilots share the same airspace and runways, so it makes sense for them to share the same requirements for rest between flights and ensure that the U.S. has a uniform, scientifically based standard for safe flying,” Bishop added.

Several pilot groups have voiced support for the legislation:

“We urge every U.S. Senator to support this important aviation safety legislation for all who rely on air transportation,” the Air Line Pilots Association said in a written statement.

“The UPS pilots applaud Sen. Boxer for her unwavering commitment to one level of safety and for her long standing leadership on ending the cargo carve out,” said Robert Travis, president of the Independent Pilots Association, which represents 2,600 pilots who fly for UPS.

“CAPA fully supports the adoption of industry fatigue rules that place the safe transportation of the flying public to the highest level of safety standards. It is vitally important to the safety of our nation’s transportation system,” said Michael Karn, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations.

“Passenger and air cargo pilots deserve same level of safety when it comes to fatigue,” added David Bourne, director of the Teamsters Airline Division.