In a move to bring mandated cargo pilot rest periods in line with regulations for passenger pilots, Congressmen in the House and Senate have introduced the Safe Skies Act
If passed, the legislation would mandate that cargo pilots adhere to the Federal Aviation Administration’s new guidelines that cap flying times at either eight or nine hours and call for a 10-hour rest period with at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Cargo pilots were allowed to voluntarily opt in to the initial rule, which will take effect in January, because of cost factors.
Democratic senators Barbra Boxer, Maria Cantwell and Amy Klobuchar, as well as their House colleagues Michael Grimm, R-NY, and Timothy Bishop, D-NY, sponsored the bill.
“Whether flying a passenger or a cargo plane, pilot fatigue can have tragic consequences,” Senator Klobuchar said in a statement. “That’s why we need consistent rules throughout the aviation system to help prevent any tragedies. This bill will extend current FAA pilot fatigue regulations to cargo pilots so they have the rest they need to stay safe.”
Congressman Grimm pointed out that “the level of fatigue” is the same for both passenger and cargo pilots.
Just because pilots are transporting cargo instead of passengers, doesn’t make them or the crewmembers less tired after a long flight,” he said. “In order to ensure the safety of our skies, it simply makes sense to have a uniform standard for the rest requirements of all flight crews.”
The Independent Pilots Association, which represents UPS pilots, has opposed leaving cargo pilots off the guidelines since the DOT announced the rule change in December 2011. That month, the organization brought a court challenge against the law, saying the FAA used a flawed cost-benefit analysis when weighing the cost impact of including cargo pilots in the rule. The group came out in support of the new legislation.
“Senator Boxer has shown continuing leadership by once again introducing legislation to ensure that the FAA’s flight duty and rest requirements equally apply to all-cargo carriers,” IPA’s president, Captain Robert Travis, said in a statement. “Her unwavering commitment will end the cargo carve out and bring Part 117 back in line with Congress’s original intent, one level of safety for U.S. aviation.”
On its website, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, said the FAA declined to mandate the rule for cargo pilots “as a result of the intense lobbying by the air cargo industry” and noted that Congress told the FAA originally to introduce a “science-based fix” and that, therefore, cost should have never been a factor.
"The idea that an ‘exemption’ that allows all-cargo and supplement carriers to ‘opt in-or-out’ of this new rule fails to meet the mandate of ‘One Level of Safety,'’” Mike Karn, president of CAPA, said in a statement. "There must be industry standard rules that provide safe transportation regardless of the cargo or passengers in the rear of the aircraft.”