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Newsflash from ALPA International

Pilots Have a New Flight & Duty Rule,
But the Work Toward One Level of Safety Is Not Finished
December 22, 2011
For decades, ALPA has demanded “One Level of Safety” for the simple reason that all pilots are created equal and that all safety regulations should follow suit. Yes, it’s absolutely true that the new FAA flight- and duty-time rule is a significant improvement over the antiquated rules established three decades ago. But, noticeably, one glaring aspect of the rule was the inclusion of a “cargo carve out.” ALPA is not at all satisfied with this outcome and will continue to work diligently with Congress, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, and the International Civil Aviation Organization to advocate for flight- and duty-time regulations that are based on science and that include cargo carriers.

ALPA fought vigorously to include cargo operations in the new regulations; but at this point, cargo operators have convinced the government that the costs to them to implement the new rule do not justify the increased level of safety the new rule provides.

“ALPA is disappointed that cargo operations are being held to a lesser standard in these new FAA rules,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president. “We will continue to fight for the same safety standards for all types of flight operations and across the airline industry. A pilot is a pilot, and science shows that fatigue affects all pilots independent of the type of operation.”

ALPA fought vehemently against the carve-out by engaging in grassroots efforts with Calls to Action, blitzing Capitol Hill and conducting hundreds of meetings with ALPA pilots in uniform, and visiting the Office of Management & Budget on multiple occasions with FedEx pilot representatives. ALPA’s representatives and staff, who worked for years on this rule, share the frustration and discouragement of our cargo members.

To be clear, ALPA was pitted against a very strong cargo lobbying group that was able to convince the administration that the cargo carriers could not afford and would go out of business if included in the new science-based rule, despite being the most profitable sector of the airline industry. One could make a very valid argument that in this example, the administration did send a message that it believes in safety—unless it’s convinced by an industry-developed cost analysis into believing safety costs too much. Clearly, this goes against our long-held and scientifically proven belief that there should be one level of safety in regards to pilot fatigue. This is unacceptable on many levels: from the naivety of the Executive Branch to an irresponsible decision-making process to the overall lack of transparency.

“ALPA will not concede or back down from finishing the work that we started,” Moak continued. “This FAA rule is a significant improvement in passenger operations, and ALPA was instrumental in moving our government to implement the new rule after a half century. But we cannot rest until our cargo members are afforded the same level of safety.”

The next steps: Our fellow cargo pilots deserve better. We are going to start by contacting Atlas, FedEx, UPS, and the other cargo airlines to push them to do the right thing and comply. The new FAA rule does not preclude cargo airlines from voluntarily following and implementing these new regulations.

We will keep this topic alive on the Hill, just as we have done with other cargo-related issues. One Level of Safety cannot, and will not, be a hollow statement. While we did not prevail in ensuring that cargo carriers are included in this new scientifically-based rule now, we will keep the pressure on. In that endeavor, we will need to work together.

The new FAA pilot flight and duty rule brings much-needed, science-based improvements in the following areas:

• Minimum rest is 10 hours, which begins when the crew is released from duty. This is designed to ensure an 8-hour sleep opportunity. The crew will be required to notify the company if the rest break needs to be extended to achieve the 8-hour sleep opportunity.

• Thirty-hour rest in 168 hours (7 days), which, in most cases, will ensure one physiological night’s rest and likely a calendar day.

• Block limits are actual, not scheduled, so pilots are not pressured to fly more than the limits due to unforeseen circumstances.

o Block hour table in new FAR 117:

Time of start (home base) Maximum flight time (hours)
0000-0459 8
0500-1959 9
2000-2359 8

• Flight duty period (FDP) has been defined and limits are based on when you come to work and conclude when your last assigned action has been completed—the FDP is adjusted based on late/early shows.

• Cumulative fatigue protections are measured in terms of both flight hours (e.g., 100 block hours in any 672 consecutive hours) and in terms of duty performed (e.g., 60 flight duty period hours in any 168 consecutive hours).

• Reserve rest requirements are included for all operations, not just domestic—this is the first time that reserve provisions have ever been in a regulation. Long and short call are not defined as duty, but are accounted for in maximum FDPs. Airport standby/reserve is treated as duty.

• Deadhead time is included as FDP.

• There are rest requirements and provisions for split duty.

• Duty extensions for unforeseen circumstances are limited and can be done only with concurrence of the PIC. Tighter reporting requirements will be mandated for the certificate holder if limits are exceeded.

• Augmentation limits are based on the quality of the onboard rest facility, which will encourage adequate rest facilities. The quality of the rest facility will apply to all augmented operations, not just those over 12 hours of flight time.

• Introduces requirement for operators to implement fatigue risk management programs (FRMS).

As announced yesterday, the new FAA rules must be fully implemented no later than two years following official publication in the Federal Register. This posting should occur within the next week.

The reason for the two-year implementation is to give the airlines time to develop approved FRMS programs and modify scheduling and bid software. Additionally, the new rule will require extensive contract review and negotiations by many of our MECs. Specifics regarding implementation details and time lines are expected from the FAA in the near future.

Look for another FastRead tomorrow with illustrations of how the new rule improvements compare to the current regulations.

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