Proposed FAA Regulations: Another Day, Another Hour
San Jose Airplane Accident Lawyer
In February 2009, Colgan Air flight 3407 crashed into a Buffalo, New York home, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. According to ABC, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that pilot error was a chief cause of the crash; pilot fatigue was an issue, according to one investigation into the crash.
Pilots are currently required to have eight hours of rest between work days, meaning they can work up to 16 hours in a day. ABC News says that pilots have complained for years that eight hours of rest is insufficient.
As early as 1990, NTSB recommended updating the regulations in accordance with fatigue research, which shows that fatigue can degrade an individuals performance in a manner comparable to alcohol. Tired pilots sometimes respond slowly to events, due to a loss of situational awareness. The Air Transport Association issued a statement that it has long been on record in support of effective fatigue-management rules that are based in science.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Randy Babbitt of the Federal Aviation Association have proposed regulations aimed at reducing pilot fatigue. Among other requirements, the regulations would mandate an additional hour of rest for commercial airline pilots between work days. LaHood says pilots and passengers alike would benefit from the proposed new rules.
In addition to more rest time between flights, the number of hours pilots could fly would be limited according to:
- The time of day of the flight
- The time zones of the flight
- The likelihood of a pilot being able to sleep
Pilots would also have the right to decline assignments without penalty if they are fatigued.
In a statement, Colgan Air emphasized that if the captain or first officer of flight 3407 were fatigued, it was not due to their work schedule. Although both commuted great distances to get to work, Colgan Air said the flight crew schedule provided rest periods for each that were far in excess of the FAA requirements and that ultimately the airline relies on the professionalism of its employees to show up rested for their flights.
Since the accident, Colgan states that it has implemented or proposed additional training and enhancements to its pilot fatigue policy. ABC News aviation consultant John Nance has said that the wages in the industry really need to be examined and that airlines that pay poverty wages have a responsibility to anticipate that pilots will take second jobs.
Victims of commercial airplane crashes should consult with an attorney regarding any claims that may exist for help with mounting medical bills and compensation for loss of wages. Likewise, family members who have lost a loved one should speak to a personal injury attorney to discuss their legal rights, possible claims and damages they may be entitled to for their loss.