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"Airlines unveil plan to reduce pilot fatigue"

Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Airlines unveil plan to reduce pilot fatigue

WASHINGTON -- Citing "loopholes" in federal flight regulations, an
organization representing major United States airlines announced a plan
Wednesday to combat pilot fatigue, a program that would limit pilots' duty
time and other practices.

The proposal, offered by the Air Transport Association, also would include
educational guides for workers, plus create a new advisory panel to research
ways to reduce tiredness on the job.

"This is a key safety-enhancing initiative," said Carol Hallett, the ATA's

The proposal takes a hard look at duty time, a term airline officials use
for pilots' standby time, pre-flight preparation and hours spent in
additional study.

The law currently requires pilots to fly no more than eight hours, but says
nothing about duty time, said Hallett.

"Under the current regulations ... you do in fact have flight time that is
regulated, and duty time can be unlimited," she said. "So, this is another
loophole in the regulations. We believe this too should be eliminated."

Pilot fatigue is believed to have contributed to the crash of American
Airlines flight 1420, which skidded off the runway of Little Rock (Arkansas)
International Airport on June 2, 1999. The pilot and 10 others died.

The accident occurred after the crew had worked more than 13 hours, nearing
the 14-hour limit. Two weeks after the accident, FAA Administrator Jane
Garvey gave airlines six months to ensure they were complying with flight
time and rest requirements. Pilots must receive at least eight hours of rest
in a 24-hour period.

Curtailing real time in air

To fight fatigue, ATA members have agreed to end the so-called "tail-end
ferry flights," in which pilots who have used up their legal hours of flying
passengers can still be assigned to fly empty planes.

The organization also formed a scientific advisory panel led by Mark R.
Rosekind, a former Stanford University sleep researcher who now runs his own
company, Alertness Solutions.

The panel, scheduled to begin work in October, will seek the appropriate
work limits "in the real world of crossing time zones, night flights,
changing schedules," Rosekind said. He said he expected results in six

The ATA plans to distribute an "alertness management guide" to airline
pilots, cabin crews and ground workers, Hallet said. It gives suggestions on
how to reduce fatigue and improve rest.

The Air Line Pilots' Association, which represents 55,000 professional
pilots who fly for 51 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, also favors a change
in procedures.

"Fatigue touches every part of an airline," added David Bushy, a Delta Air
Lines pilot and senior vice president for flight operations for ALPA. "Of
the 75,000 people at Delta, about 70,000 are on 24-7 schedules. So gate
agents, dispatchers, mechanics, pilots, flight attendants are all affected
by it."

Duane Woerth, a Northwest Airlines pilot who's also ALPA's president, told a
House subcommittee on aviation last year that the organization favors a
12-hour duty limit, which can be extended to a maximum of 14 hours under
certain circumstances.


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