Posted on: 21 December 2011 by Mark Howells
The US Federal Aviation Administration’s final regulations regarding airline pilot flight and duty time limitations and minimum rest requirements has been welcomed by the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA) as being a step in the right direction but criticised for failing to deliver ‘One Level of Safety’.
The FAA’s changes to the rules were prompted by the February 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407. This effort is the result of millions of hours of research and collaboration by scientists and industry experts.
SWAPA president, Captain Steve Chase (pictured), explained, "While the pilots of Southwest Airlines are the most productive in the industry, we recognise the need for an update to rules that have been in place for the past 50 years. However, SWAPA has made it clear throughout this process that we would only offer our support to a ruling that promotes the ‘One Level of Safety’ that the FAA originally mandated."
Most of the current rules have been in effect prior to 1960. The increased capability of aircraft since that time has vastly changed pilots’ working dynamic and environment. The ruling includes an exemption for cargo carriers, such as UPS and FedEx, which – according to SWAPA – would allow companies to force their pilots to continue to operate under the previous and outdated regulations. These are the same regulations that triggered the FAA’s mandate of "One Level of Safety."
"Cargo pilots are no less susceptible to fatigue than passenger pilots," Chase emphasised. "Our crew members and the passengers they carry operate in the same airspace as cargo operators. Bystanders on the ground are no less affected by an accident if an aircraft is carrying boxes rather than people. It is our hope that lawmakers will reconsider the cargo carrier exemption and ensure that legislation meets the original intent of ‘One Level of Safety’.”