Congress has introduced an amendment that would add all-cargo carriers to the Federal Aviation Administration’s pilot flight duty guidelines, which are to take effect in 2014.
Introduced by New York congressmen Michael Grimm and Tim Bishop, the Safe Skies Act of 2013 seeks to amend the FAA’s rule to apply the changes to all-cargo pilots.
Initially adopted by the FAA in December 2011 after Congress told the agency to look into the issue, the flight crew member duty rule sets a 10-hour minimum rest period for pilots — a two-hour increase over the previous guidelines — among other regulations. Pilots are also required to have more consecutive time off per week and perform a fit-for-duty check before they start working. Cargo pilots were excluded from the new rules because implementing the
changes for freighter pilots would be too costly. The FAA did, however, encourage cargo carriers to opt into the new rule voluntarily.
According to the FAA, the new rules would cost the aviation industry $297 million, but would return benefits in the range of $247 million to $470 million.
In April, the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) filed suit with the FAA to get the agency to impose the rules on cargo carriers, pointing to the FAA’s cost-benefit analysis that Congress never requested it as a reason to cover cargo pilots under the rule. The agency soon admitted errors in the way it calculated the costs of imposing the rule on cargo carriers, but last month came out saying it won’t alter its decision.
At the time, IPA’s general counsel William Trent said the FAA didn’t follow Congress’ original intent. "The FAA acted contrary to Congress' mandate when the agency published new pilot duty and rest rules in December excluding a vast and growing segment of U.S. commercial aviation — cargo,” he said in a statement. “Congress specifically directed the FAA to address the problem of pilot fatigue by issuing new rules based on the best available science.”
While the IPA, which represents the pilots of UPS, may be encouraged by the congressional action, industry trade group Airlines for America came out against the development. President and Chief Executive Officer Nicholas E. Calio said the FAA’s rule is based on science and is a safe solution to a stated problem.
“We are in the safest period of aviation history, an achievement reached through a shared commitment the FAA, the airlines and their employees, and the new FAA rule continues to put the safe operation of passenger and cargo airlines first for customers and crew members,” he said in a statement. “All stakeholders actively participated in the rulemaking, which was composed of a scientific review of existing safety measures, fatigue mitigations and diverse airline operating environments, and the rule as put forward by the FAA builds on our safety record.” - Jon Ross