Wednesday, September 13, 2000 Airlines unveil plan to reduce pilot fatigue CNN 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 president. 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 months. 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.