Proposed Bill Would Apply FAA Pilot Fatigue Rule to Cargo Pilots

November 27, 2013

Three U.S. Senators have introduced a bill designed to ensure that pilots of cargo planes are operating under the same FAA pilot fatigue rules that apply to passenger aircraft pilots. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Safe Skies Act in the Senate earlier this month, according to Occupational Health & Safety. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have shown support for the bill.

Legislation to address pilot fatigue was passed following the 2009 Colgan Air crash outside of Buffalo, New York, in which pilot fatigue was found to be a contributing factor. That legislation, which will take effect in January of next year, limits the amount of time that pilots of passenger planes can fly to no more than nine hours. It also requires airlines to provide pilots with a10-hour rest period before returning to duty, with an opportunity for at least eight hours of continuous sleep. That legislation, however, only addresses pilot fatigue for the pilots of passenger planes. The FAA exempted cargo plane pilots from these rules, and as of now, cargo plane pilots are allowed to be on active duty for as long as 16 hours a day. 

"Flight safety should be our top priority, regardless of what an aircraft is carrying" said House Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY), sponsor of the bill. "Just because pilots are transporting cargo instead of passengers, doesn't make them or the crew members less tired after a long flight; the level of fatigue remains the same."