July 23, 2019

Airline Pilots Urge Capitol Hill to Enhance Fatigue Rules for All-Cargo Operations

The Safe Skies Act Would Ensure Cargo Pilots Are Sufficiently Rested Before Flight

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The pilots of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA); the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA), including the Independent Pilots Association (IPA); and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1224 today announced renewed efforts to achieve one level of safety for all-cargo pilots and issued collective support for legislation that would close this dangerous loophole and ensure that all airline pilots fly under the same safety standards. The Safe Skies Act, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), would apply the same flight, duty, and rest rules to cargo flights as commercial airlines to prevent dangers posed by fatigued pilots.

While many of the same regulations are used for both commercial passenger and cargo airlines, lesser requirements are in force on all-cargo operations in several crucial areas, which results in unnecessary safety risks. One example of this safety double standard between cargo and passenger operations is pilot flight, duty, and rest regulations. While updated science-based flight- and duty-time regulations for passenger operations were issued in 2011 and implemented in 2014, those rules apply only to pilots at passenger airlines and do not include all-cargo pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration’s original rule included all pilots—passenger and cargo operations—but the cargo sector was carved out by the Office of Management and Budget due to a flawed cost-benefit methodology.

“For far too long, pilots at all-cargo operations have been subjected to substandard safety and security regulations. By joining forces, we will speak with one voice and tell Washington and aviation regulators that it’s time to close the gap and bring one level of safety to all pilots,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president. “Based on statistics, if the accident rate of all-cargo operations was applied to passenger operations, there would be an accident on a commercial airline every two weeks. And that is not acceptable.”

“Pilots flying for UPS, FedEx, and Amazon operate in the same crowded skies as those flying for Delta, United, and American Airlines,” said IPA President Robert Travis. “Now is the time for Congress to put an end to the special status carved out by the cargo airline industry allowing them to fill the nation’s skies with large jets operated by pilots not subject to the same national, science-based fatigue rules as those flying passengers. Creating one level of aviation safety for both passenger and cargo is critical to ensuring safety for all.”

“Fatigue has the same debilitating effects on pilots whether they fly cargo or passenger aircraft—research has proven it, and the Federal Aviation Administration knows this too,” said Capt. Daniel C. Wells, APA Teamster Local 1224 president and Atlas Air pilot. “We at CAPA and the Teamsters will continue to work alongside ALPA and Capt. DePete to see that airlines—just because they fly cargo—cannot compromise on safety and security. Congress and the American public should demand nothing less."

“Allowing some operators to operate outside of this much-needed safety net is not grounded in modern fatigue science as mandated by Congress in 2010. Logical regulatory reform must take precedence over special interests within the air cargo industry,” stated Capt. Larry Rooney, CAPA president. “We look forward to working with our fellow union brothers and sisters to provide a commonsense solution to this glaring safety loophole,” he added.

In addition to urging lawmakers to enact cargo pilot fatigue legislation, the nearly 100,000 pilots represented above will work jointly toward significant improvements in flight deck security, ramp security, and the federal standards related to the protection of cargo pilots’ health and well-being.

Other examples of safety gaps that all-cargo operations face:

  • Many all-cargo aircraft lack intrusion-resistant cockpit doors.
  • Animal handlers carrying large needles and tranquilizers lack proper security screening.
  • Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting is not required at many airports during cargo aircraft operations.

Some ramp areas used by cargo aircraft are not properly designated security identification display areas.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 62,000 pilots at 35 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at alpa.org or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or Media@alpa.org