View Full Version : WSJ: Pilot Fatigue Spurs Calls for New Safeguards

12th Sep 2008, 13:27
Apologies if this has already been posted. The Wall Street Journal ran a rather lengthy story on pilot fatigue today (I think on the front page). Among the many nuggets of information are some, in my opinion, rather appalling scheduling practices at U.S. regional airlines. I'm not a pilot though so maybe I'm off base...

Business - WSJ.com (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122117729872125851.html?mod=yahoo_hs&ru=yahoo)


Pilot Fatigue Spurs
Calls for New Safeguards

September 12, 2008; Page A1

Safety experts and regulators have long been concerned about the dangers of exhausted, overworked or downright sleepy pilots. But the problem is intensifying as financially strapped airlines try to squeeze more productivity out of pilots, who by most measures are logging more hours per month and flying more grueling schedules than at any time since 2001.

Many big airlines with new labor contracts bargained in bankruptcy -- or under threat of it -- have many pilots flying up to an extra 10 or 15 hours each month, closer to the 100-hour maximum allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration. That's in addition to layovers and time spent on ground duties.

Flight schedules that look manageable on paper often don't account for storms, air-traffic congestion or other potential delays that can make a long work day longer. In July, according to the latest government statistics, 19 U.S. airlines saw one quarter of all their flights, on average, arrive late by more than 15 minutes. And pilots say certain airlines schedule flight times at or just under eight hours -- the FAA-mandated limit that a pilot can be behind the controls per day -- on trans-Atlantic routes that regularly run longer, so they don't have to pay for an extra pilot.

Now, pilots and safety experts are stepping up pressure on the FAA to rewrite rest and scheduling regulations that basically haven't been updated since the 1960s. Critics say the rules don't reflect the current flying reality, and are based on outdated science that ignores the latest sleep research showing the cumulative impact of inadequate rest. At a hearing earlier this year, several National Transportation Safety Board members and staffers expressed concern that the U.S. was in danger of falling behind other countries in combating pilot fatigue.

After working more than 12 hours in a row -- inside and out of the cockpit -- error rates shoot up, complacency increases and communications become impaired, says Peter Demitry, a former test pilot and fatigue expert who consults for pilot groups. One symptom of fatigue that scientists are now studying is "micro sleep," when pilots become unresponsive for a few seconds or a minute, though their eyes are open....[rest omitted due to copyright]

12th Sep 2008, 14:54
I can say, with total conviction, that absolutely nothing will be done to improve the cause of fatigue in our profession, in fact I believe unfortunately that the corporate suits will lobby the FAA/CAA/(insert National Aviation agency as appropriate) to lengthen our allowable working hours in this next economic downturn.

And whan the next Little Rock overrun happens, although fatigue will be mentioned as a casual factor, it will be listed as pilot error again! even it kills hundreds of people!

As an example, truck drivers in UK/EU has tighter controls of driving hours and health and safety regulations than pilots, and they don't spend upto 10 hours (2pilot) 14hrs(3pilot) or upto 22 hours(4pilot EK rules) in a 10foot by 8 foot office, 70-80 decibels, at rarified Oxygen levels.

12th Sep 2008, 17:42
That neatly fits in with the first anniversary of this BALPA press release

Balpa (http://www.balpa.org/intranet/Media---Pr/Lords%20Fatigue%20Release.htm)

Is it possible that the wheels are slowly turning and perhaps the world will soon be forced to admit that due consideration of pilots' fatigue and welfare is a matter for all - especially for those who trust us to fly them and their families!? Remember the FTL regs were written years ago in a different world entirely - these days, so many companies treat 'duty limits as targets' and many of us who have complained at our rosters have been told "its legal"!

Sadly, while Zoom, Alitalia and XL are grabbing the headlines and whilst there are few more people looking for pilots jobs than there were this time last month, FTLs and associated legislation will seem insignificant.

Nonetheless, we should all be grateful for any pressure exerted by WSJ, BALPA and the masses that fly in our ac .... BUT our T & Cs have to reflect the reality (and one day, one hopes, legislation). Presently, we are employed to fly under worse fatigue conditions than any EU bus and 'artic' lorry driver would ever contemplate.

A number of recent studies and publications have highlighted the risks of flying when fatigued (especially culmulatively). Unfortunately, very few accidents have been made directly attributable to 'fatigue' ....but we all know that is not the full story and many of us have flown when perhaps we shouldn't. ('there but for the grace of God' etc!)

I know some companies have a 'fatigue monitoring system' but my experience of these indicates these systems are, at best, variable.

Perhaps BALPA, the Flight Safety Committee or the CAA should become the custodians of 'anonymous' fatigue reports - ala CHIRP?

In the meantime, keep at it BALPA and WSJ!

12th Sep 2008, 18:28
FARs are a joke!

Having worked with the prelim UK CAP371 (before it became 371 in a charter carrier) along side our industrial document, CAP371 was/is a realistic tool. Then working with a US carrier applying FAR91 then 121, the FARs were a total joke, operate 2 sectors of 6 hrs each with a ground time of 7 hrs on 121, hey then operate a backend ferry of 10.5 hrs under 91! Yes folks in excess of 30 hrs duty time. OK this was back in the 80s, legal, but should never be allowed. It still happens believe me

JAR/EASA and most importantly the FAA should address this issue as a matter ot urgency, too bloody frightened of the pillocks in DC!!!!!:mad::mad::mad::mad:

13th Sep 2008, 00:04
Does anyone know how the US rest regulations compare with EU OPS?

13th Sep 2008, 00:27
While in PHL waiting for connection on with US Airways commuter to my destination, I heard one after another, of delayed announcements. The common theme was crew not being to gate on time due to incoming flight status. Combine that with MX and it spells what is happening to the US carriers with furloughs and eliminating flights. It's no wonder that regs are being pushed to their legal max.

It can't continue this way without further crisis to the bottom line. I love this industry and pray the powers that be figure it out.

13th Sep 2008, 00:49
The FAA default answer: "Well, nobody's been killed lately...."

13th Sep 2008, 01:56
Regional airline pilots stood around in crewrooms all over the US today cheering at the bit in the article that talks about Mesa which is widely accepted as the worst employer in a bad industry.

They're infamous for having their crews sleep on planes to the extent that the pilots are rumoured to carry wooden boards that fit across the aisles of their RJs to sleep on, it says:

"When Mesa pilots reach a destination late at night, they often want to nap before climbing back into the cockpit for an early morning departure. But for crews on the ground four hours or less, Mesa won't pay for hotel rooms.
'Camping Trip'
Pilots "call it a 'camping trip,'" says Kevin Wilson, a captain and union chief for the 1,400 pilots at Mesa, which flies for UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, Delta Air Lines (http://online.wsj.com/quotes/main.html?type=djn&symbol=dal) Inc. and US Airways (http://online.wsj.com/quotes/main.html?type=djn&symbol=LCC) Group Inc. He says pilots will sometimes curl up on a chair in the terminal "or sleep on the plane; I've done it once myself." The same crews then fly up to three more legs before calling it quits and getting their mandatory rest period.
Such punishing schedules are legal under FAA regulations. Michael Lotz, Mesa's president and chief operating officer, says the carrier complies with all collective-bargaining agreements, and its pilots can be scheduled to fly "as many legs" as the FAA allows."

Ignition Override
13th Sep 2008, 08:57

Good description in a nutshell.

Standby for our well-known resident US expert on all aviation matters to impart his unlimited wisdom by typically defending any airline management policies, including scumbags, possibly FAA policies which often still have the goal of promoting aviation (by ignoring decades of NASA and other research).

Short night to AMS, but waiting in a Haarlem hotel three hours for a tourist room is a drag.
I'll leave you guys to it by returning to fun topics SKS, MN 44 and similar fun machinery.