December 21, 2011

Gillibrand: New FAA Rule to Prevent Pilot Fatigue Important Step Forward to Save Lives

Gillibrand, Families of Flight 3407 Tragedy Led Effort to Increase Pilot Down Time Between Flights

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the FAA will officially implement new rules aimed at preventing pilot fatigue that were included in the overhauled FAA regulations mandated by the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act of 2010, legislation she fought hard to pass. Pilot fatigue contributed to the Flight 3407 tragedy.

In a letter sent to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jacob Lew earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand repeated her call for the FAA to issue a final ruling on this critical safety regulation.

“This is an important step forward for airline safety that will help us save lives,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Over the past two years, the families of the victims of Flight 3407 have been a constant presence in the halls of Congress, working to improve safety conditions so that others are spared the same loss they have had to endure. It is because of the tireless efforts of these families - their unwavering pursuit for justice - that we have taken some of the most significant steps in improving the safety of the nation’s aviation system in years. I will keep fighting right alongside these families to reach one level of safety standards for all air travel.”

“The airline industry has fought this rule tooth and nail for nearly twenty years, so today is a victory and a testament to the memory of our loved ones,” said Kevin Kuwik, Flight 3407 family member and native of Lackawanna, New York.  “It is our hope that time will look back on this fatigue initiative as a major step forward in terms of making regional airline travel safer for the flying public.  This would not have been possible without the steadfast support of so many, in particular Senator Gillibrand and our Western New York congressional delegation, and we are forever grateful for their efforts.”

The new rule will limit the amount of consecutive flight time for pilots to eight or nine hours, depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty period.  It will also implement requirements based on the time of day pilots begin their first flight, the number of scheduled flight segments and the number of time zones they cross.  
The rule requires a 10 hour minimum rest period for pilots prior to the flight duty period, which is two hours longer than the current rules, and requires that pilots have the opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep during that 10 hour period.  The rule also requires pilots to be given 30 consecutive hours off per week, which is a 25 percent increase over current rules. 

Additionally, pilots will be required to affirmatively state his or her fitness for duty prior to each flight segment and airlines will be required to remove a pilot from duty immediately if they are unfit to fly. Airlines will have until December 2013 to comply with this new rule.
Senator Gillibrand’s December 7 letter to OMB Director Lew is attached.