New pilot flight time and rest requirements proposed

New rules to counter concerns about pilot fatigue will be considered by the House Aviation Subcommittee Thursday.

Backer of the Pilot Flight and Duty Time Rule say commercial pilots would benefit from streamlined rules on flight time, duty and rest requirements.

Over the past 15 years, fatigue has been linked to more than 250 fatalities in air carrier accidents, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a statement last week, said, "This proposal is a significant enhancement for aviation safety."

He told reporters the proposal would, for the first time, "give pilots the rights to decline an assignment if they are fatigued, without a penalty."

Pilot fatigue was cited as a chief contributor to the February 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407. Fatigue was linked to questions about the crew's ability to recognize the plane was in trouble and how to correctly respond.

The commuter plane nosedived into a house near Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 passengers.

The proposal would consolidate the current rest requirements that vary depending on whether the flight is deemed domestic, international, or unscheduled, as with charter flights.

The FAA proposes a nine-hour minimum for rest prior to the duty period, a one-hour increase over the current rules. Cumulative fatigue also would be addressed, with new limits being established and downtime being increased where current rules apply.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, a pilot with the old Eastern Airlines for 25 years, said the plan, if approved, "would strengthen the requirement that a pilot has to report fit for duty, fit for the mission that he or she is about to undertake. And that means being fully rested."

Babbitt added that the responsibility would be placed "with equal weight upon the carrier," to make sure commercial pilots "get the amount of regulatory rest required that's being proposed here."

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