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"Enforcement Stayed of Pilot Fatigue Rule"



Monday, September 10, 2001

Enforcement Stayed of Pilot Fatigue Rule
By John Crawley


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration must suspend
enforcement of its pilot rest rules, pending a legal review of those
regulations, an appeals court has decided. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a motion
by the Air Transport Association and the Regional Airline Association to
stay enforcement of regulations that limit a pilot's scheduled work day
to 16 hours.

The FAA said in May it would begin to enforce that long-standing policy
after years of wrangling with the industry about when airlines must pull
crews out of the cockpit because of duty time limits.

Regulators had given those airlines that needed extra time to comply
with the standard until mid November to adjust their crew schedules.

The stay, which was granted on Sept. 5, will remain in place until the
appeals court completes its review of an industry challenge to an FAA
interpretation of the rule that underpinned the agency's enforcement
policy.

That interpretation, issued last November, would allow crews to stop
their work day even if the flight they were scheduled to work was
delayed by an unforeseen event, such as bad weather or a mechanical
glitch.

They could also end their work day before takeoff if they knew that the
flight would put them over the 16-hour maximum.

The industry has recommended the FAA establish a limit of 14 hours,
whereas pilots want their duty time lowered to 12 hours.

An FAA spokeswoman would not comment directly on the court's stay,
saying the case was still in litigation. However, she said the agency
stood behind its interpretation of the rule.

Airline pilots considered the stay a setback.

``We are surprised and disappointed by the court's ruling,'' said Capt.
John Darrah, president of the Allied Pilots Association. ``FAA
enforcement of the clarified regulation will reduce fatigue risk and
raise the bar on safety.''

That group represents 11,500 pilots at AMR Corp.'s (AMR.N) American
Airlines. Tens of thousands of other pilots are represented by the Air
Line Pilots Association.

Pilot fatigue has resurfaced as a flashpoint in airline labor-management
relations, and has attracted congressional interest in recent months.

The industry has argued the FAA interpretation and enforcement of the
duty time rule was arbitrary, and would hurt the bottom line because
airlines would have to make crew schedules more flexible.

The carriers also argued that the rule would cause more delays because
stand-by pilots would have to be kept ready and called in on short
notice.

Carol Hallett, president of the ATA, said the chief lobbying group for
the major airlines was pleased with the court action.

``Regrettably, the process that was underway would significantly change
the existing regulation without soliciting public comment, thereby
excluding valuable information that must be considered,'' Hallett said.

The industry has recommended the FAA establish a scheduled duty limit of
14 hours for scheduled pilot duty. That limit could be extended to 16
hours.

Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, recently
pressed senior Transportation Department officials on the pilot fatigue
issue.

The FAA has said it is moving forward on new fatigue rules, which could
be proposed in the coming months.

Pilots want to lower their scheduled duty time to 12 hours in a 24-hour
period, with up to two more hours allowed in the case of delays.

Federal safety investigators are looking at pilot fatigue as a possible
factor in the 1999 crash of an American Airlines plane in Little Rock,
Arkansas, that killed 11 people.

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