FAA misses deadline on pilot fatigue rule

Washington – The Federal Aviation Administration has missed an Aug. 1 deadline to issue a final rule regulating pilot fatigue. The requirement was laid out in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act (H.R. 5900), which was passed after the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 near Buffalo, NY, in February 2009. Pilot fatigue is believed to have been a significant contributing factor in the crash.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt this week, urging the agency to address pilot fatigue. “Finalizing a strong fatigue rule is critical to our aviation safety and will help keep overworked and overtired pilots out of the cockpit,” Schumer wrote.

A report released earlier this month by the National Research Council indicates that fatigue among airline pilots may be linked to commuting practices. The report – requested by Congress after the Flight 3407 crash – stated that although not enough data is available to determine the extent to which commuting impacts safety, FAA should further study the issue and consider steps to reduce those risks. It also called on airlines to research pilots’ commuting practices and educate them on issues associated with fatigue. The report suggests pilots plan their commutes and other activities so they will be awake for no more than 16 hours before flying. Ideally, pilots should attempt to sleep for at least six hours prior to reporting for duty.

The report stated that further research is required to determine effective methods of testing levels of fatigue among pilots.

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