May 13, 2004
ALPA President Blasts FAA for Back-Tracking on Pilot Rest Rule
WASHINGTON, D.C.---The head of the union that represents most of the nation’s airline pilots has condemned an FAA action to back-track on a previous interpretation that would have required airlines to maintain a "do not call" list for pilots who do not want to be wakened during required rest periods.
"They bowed to industry pressure, pure and simple," said Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International. "At our request, FAA had issued a written interpretation of their regulations, an interpretation clearly spelling out that airlines must take note of written requests from pilots not to be interrupted during their required rest and sleep cycle. But the minute the airlines objected, FAA started back-tracking. Now they say that they didn’t mean what they wrote."
The interpretation in question came in a Nov. 7, 2003 letter to ALPA responding to ALPA’s request for a clarification of under what circumstances an airline could or could not interrupt a pilot’s sleep with telephone calls. Specifically, the FAA wrote:
"Further, a flight crewmember can provide written notification to the air carrier of his or her desire not to be contacted while on rest periods (or the conditions under which contact should not be attempted). If an air carrier receives such a ‘do not call’ letter from a flight crewmember, then the carrier is on actual notice that its attempts to contact the pilot during the rest period could disrupt the pilot’s attempts to sleep. In such a situation, unlike the situations summarized in footnote 1, even one phone call from the carrier to the pilot is evidence that the carrier has broken the pilot’s continuous rest period, and the rest period must begin anew before the carrier could use the pilot in Part 121 domestic operations."
"I defy anyone who reads that passage to tell me that the FAA wasn’t putting airlines on notice that they had to accept written requests from pilots and honor those requests. We didn’t introduce the term ‘do not call list’ into the ruling, that literally is what the FAA said. But now they’ve ‘reinterpreted their interpretation’ to the point where they’ve totally reversed themselves," Woerth said.
"We will reformulate our guidance to pilots based on this new letter. As part of a more comprehensive approach to issues of pilot fatigue, we also will continue to press for reforms to flight and duty time rules, some of which go back to the 1930s and do not reflect current scientific knowledge about rest and fatigue," he said.
ALPA represents 64,000 airline pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. For more information on flight and duty time issues, visit its Web site at www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACT: John Mazor (703) 481-4440