Release #11.11
April 27, 2011

NTSB’s Empire Airlines Accident Report Shows Need for Standard Rest Rules for All Airline Pilots

WASHINGTON – Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), issued the following statement in response to the National Transportation Safety Board meeting this week regarding the 2009 Empire Airlines Flight 8284 accident at Lubbock, Texas.

“The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l, commends the National Transportation Safety Board for its work to enhance aviation safety with a thorough review of the Empire Airlines accident. In its meeting, the Board discussed flight crew fatigue, flight operations in icing conditions, and the need to enhance crew resource management training for all airline pilots. Unfortunately, these safety concerns, which ALPA has pressed to address for decades, persist in our industry today, even in this period of remarkably safe airline operations.

“The Board reported that the flight, conducted under 14 CFR 121 supplemental rules, was operated in the very early hours of the morning, and the crew experienced a level of fatigue that likely contributed to the accident. For decades, ALPA has called for ‘One Level of Safety’ and sought standardized, science-based flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements that apply to all airline operations, regardless of whether the pilots fly cargo, military equipment and troops, or commercial passengers. The Board’s discussion pointed to the particular threat posed by operations during times of ‘circadian low’—overnight flights when pilots are especially vulnerable to fatigue.

“In addition, the Board drew attention to the icing conditions in which the Empire Airlines flight was operating, which included ‘supercooled large droplets’ that can significantly degrade aircraft performance. In the nearly 20 years since the tragic accident near Roselawn, Indiana, that was linked to this type of icing, the weather phenomenon has been studied extensively, but our industry has only recently begun taking positive steps to account for its effect on aircraft performance.

“Much more needs to be done to address the hazards posed by in-flight icing conditions, and the NTSB echoed many of ALPA’s long-standing priorities such as avoiding flight in supercooled-large-droplet-icing conditions unless manufacturers’ testing has concluded it can be done safely. Other ALPA priorities include enhanced training for pilots, dispatchers, and flight followers, and greater fidelity in flight simulator replication of icing conditions.

“The NTSB also highlighted the need for airline captains to be required to receive specific training in leadership skills as they apply to effective crew resource management.

“We owe it to all who were affected by this accident to act on these opportunities to advance safety. ALPA particularly commends the recognition by the Board that all airlines, regardless of the size of the aircraft, the size of the airline, or the nature of the payload, must be operated to a single high safety standard.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing nearly 53,000 pilots at 38 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at


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