Science-Based Fatigue Rules for Cargo
ALPA views the establishment of improved flight and duty rules as among the most important flight safety undertakings in modern times. In December 2011, the U.S. government published a final rule on flight-/duty-time regulations for passenger-carrying airlines (FAR 117), which implemented much-needed and long-awaited safety improvements. The new rule, successfully implemented in 2014, is a significant improvement over the antiquated rules established five decades ago. Unfortunately, cargo operations were not included in the updated pilot fatigue rule.
Cargo pilots fly the same types of aircraft, on the same routes, through the same airspace, and into the same airports, as pilots who fly passengers. Further, many cargo pilots begin their work in the late-night hours. Under existing rules, they could still be sharing the same airspace with the passenger carriers at 1 p.m. the next day. Fatigue science clearly shows that time awake greatly affects performance. Under a science-based fatigue-mitigation regime, duty lengths can be tailored to the time of day a pilot starts work. Unfortunately, current rules for cargo pilots allow for 16 hours of duty, regardless of the time a pilot reports for work. Cargo pilots, who nearly always fly through the human performance circadian low period of 2–6 a.m., greatly need science-based fatigue rules.
For decades, ALPA has demanded “One Level of Safety” for the simple reason that fatigue affects all pilots. Safety regulations should follow suit.
Congress should mandate science-based flight and duty regulations for all-cargo operations.