Does a nap a day keep a plane crash away? Yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced new regulations that will allow commercial airline pilots to get more rest before hitting the runway. The FAA placed limits on the maximum number of hours a pilot can be on duty and set new requirements for rest periods between scheduled flights, reports a press release issued by the government agency.
Here’s what will change: The maximum number of consecutive hours a pilot can be on call will decrease from 16 to a span of nine to 14 hours (depending on when the pilot started and how many segments he must fly). Pilots may not fly longer than eight or nine hours at a time, and they’ll have to take breaks of 10 hours or longer between shifts. Additionally, pilots will get 25 percent more time off between work weeks — up to 30 consecutive hours of break time. Airlines must adhere to the new requirements within two years.
Overall, this is a major upgrade to the FAA’s existing regulations, which had pilots toiling for longer hours and resting less, and were not consistently applicable to all types of U.S. passenger flights. The upgraded requirements, says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, were enacted to perk up pilot performance on the job. Said LaHood, “We made a promise to the traveling public that we would do everything possible to make sure pilots are rested when they get in the cockpit. This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue.”
According to the Associated Press, safety advocates have been pressuring the FAA to update pilot work rules for years, but resistance from the airlines kept any amendments on hold. It took tragedy — the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash that killed 50 people in 2009 — to enact change. Families of those who died in the Colgan Air crash, which the National Transportation Safety Board attributed to pilot error, lobbied for new rules to fight pilot fatigue — and today, they won.
Will you feel safer flying when the FAA’s new rules come into effect? Take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments!
— written by Caroline Costello