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Napping not option for FAA

Wed., Dec. 2, 2009

Agency working on rules to prevent pilot fatigue

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators said Tuesday they would not allow pilots to sleep in the cockpit as part of a proposed rule for reducing pilot fatigue.

Some airlines and aviation safety experts have endorsed short naps as one ingredient of a strategy to reduce fatigue. But Peggy Gilligan, the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for aviation safety, said the agency could manage pilot fatigue without permitting napping.

“We do believe the crew has to come to work prepared for the schedule they are undertaking,” Gilligan told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “We can manage and mitigate their fatigue through the regulations sufficiently that they should be alert throughout that flight.”

The FAA committed to overhaul its pilot flight and duty rules after a regional jet crashed in February in Buffalo, N.Y., killing 50 people. Investigators determined that pilot fatigue, as well as poor training and pilot error, probably contributed to the crash.

The FAA appointed an aviation rulemaking committee to recommend new flight and duty rules, which date from the 1940s. Current rules limit a pilot to 8 hours of flying in a 24-hour period, but permit a duty day of 16 hours.

Gilligan said Tuesday the FAA is behind schedule on the proposal and won’t be done with it until early next year. The proposal would then have to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House before it could be released for public comment by airlines and other parties.


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