April 10, 2007
NTSB Sounds Alarm on Airline Worker Fatigue
ALPA Commends NTSB Action to Highlight Safety Threat
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations point to airline industry worker fatigue as a serious safety threat and support ALPA’s longstanding position that it is time to modernize flight- and duty-time regulations.
“ALPA commends the NTSB for making a powerful statement for aviation safety with today’s recommendations,” said ALPA’s president, Capt. John Prater. “This NTSB action is more evidence that fatigue is among the most pressing aviation safety issues of our time.”
Today’s NTSB recommendations were issued in the context of the Comair 5191 accident, but they underscore a decades-old national aviation safety issue. Current federal aviation flight-time, duty-time, and rest regulations are a dated patchwork of rules developed over the past 60 years.
The regulations are fundamentally flawed and fail to take into account today’s science, flight schedules, aircraft equipment, and travel distances. In addition, through the bankruptcy process, work rules at many airlines that helped safeguard airline pilots against fatigue by limiting flight and duty time have been eviscerated.
“Since many pilots have had their salaries cut by 40 to 60 percent, they must fly more hours to make up for that lost pay,” continued Prater. “Many airline managements are making a bad situation worse by hiring as few pilots as possible, scheduling pilots to work the legal workday limit and beyond, and punishing pilots who call in sick because of fatigue.”
When flight- and duty-time limits are pushed to the extreme, unplanned events such as poor weather and mechanical failures can create situations in which pilots may be forced to choose between flying fatigued or risking possible punitive action from their managements or slashed paychecks.
“The United States needs realistic, science-based flight- and duty-time limits that make certain airline pilots in both passenger and cargo operations are rested and ready to perform under pressure,” concluded Prater. “Today’s recommendations mean that the FAA can seize the opportunity to lead the aviation community toward a modern approach to reducing fatigue. ALPA stands ready to work with FAA and the airline industry to address pilot fatigue.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA represents 60,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at http://www.alpa.org.
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ALPA CONTACTS: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, 703-481-4440