Mitigating Fatigue for All-Cargo Pilots

On December 21, 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its final regulations (FAR 117) to address pilot fatigue in the cockpit. Unfortunately, the rules only applied to passenger operations; all-cargo airline operations were excluded from mandatory compliance. Based on scientific evidence, these regulations set forth reasonable standards to address pilot fatigue that ensure airline safety without placing unreasonable cost demands on the industry.

Airline pilot fatigue isn’t determined by aircraft payload. As then-National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said after the final rule was released, expressing her disappointment on the exclusion of cargo operations, “A tired pilot is a tired pilot, whether there are 10 paying customers on board or 100, whether the payload is passengers or pallets.”

By exempting all-cargo airline operations from mandatory compliance, the traveling public is at risk. All-cargo pilots fly the same routes, in the same airspace, and into the same airports as pilots of passenger airlines. Moreover, all-cargo operations often taken place at night or early in the morning for express delivery of packages. It does not make sense to exclude cargo operations from science‑based rules.

ALPA’s Recommendation

Pass the Safe Skies Act. This bill would direct the Department of Transportation (DOT) to modify a specified DOT final rule relating to flightcrew duty and rest requirements so that the requirements under that rule would apply to all-cargo flightcrew members to the same extent that it applies to passenger flight crews.