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"FAA oversteps law"



Monday, July 16, 2001

Opinion
FAA oversteps law
By Carol Hallett
USA Today


We share a common goal with our professional pilots and the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA): to have rested pilots who are capable of safely
performing their duties. In fact, the pilots' unions have stated that "in
the majority of cases, pilots are receiving the amount of rest required by
the rule." Significant misunderstanding has surrounded the issues of pilot
flight time, duty time and rest. Under existing regulations, the time a
pilot is on duty can be unlimited; only the actual time a pilot flies a
plane is regulated. Without a doubt, clear duty limits should be
established.

More than a year ago, we called on the FAA to cap the maximum permissible
scheduled duty day at 14 hours for domestic operations, beginning at pilot
check-in, to close the loophole that permits extending duty indefinitely.

We also recommended that FAA flight-time limitations and rest requirements
apply to tail-end ferry flights, in which pilots fly an empty plane to
another airport. With many pilots choosing to commute through multiple time
zones to report for their duty-day, we urged the FAA to review this issue as
well to ensure that all pilots report for duty well rested.

Instead of forthrightly addressing these issues, the FAA chose to change its
regulations without seeking public comment  a clear violation of law.

The FAA unlawfully denied the public, including air carriers, the
opportunity to explain the adverse operational and safety impacts of this
particular rule change. Rules as significant as this one should be changed
only on an informed basis after a thorough public debate of the issues, as
required by law. That did not occur in this instance.

Our objective is a process that is fair and open to the public, that seeks
the inclusion of the best available scientific data and that maintains the
highest levels of safety.

Professional responsibility is a two-way street: Our airlines have a
responsibility to pilots, crewmembers and passengers to operate safely;
conversely, our pilots have a responsibility to avoid flight operations when
they are fatigued. By forgoing an open dialogue, the FAA has not acted in
the best interests of the aviation community or the flying public.

Carol Hallett is president and CEO of the Air Transport Association.

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