Skip to main content

New rules proposed for pilot flight time and rest requirements

By Paul Courson, CNN
The FAA proposes a nine-hour minimum for rest prior to a pilot's duty period, a one-hour increase over the current rules.
The FAA proposes a nine-hour minimum for rest prior to a pilot's duty period, a one-hour increase over the current rules.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Transportation secretary calls the proposal a "significant enhancement" for air safety
  • It would add an hour to the current eight-hour rest requirement
  • The proposal next enters a 60-day public comment period
RELATED TOPICS
  • Air Travel

Washington (CNN) -- Commercial pilots would benefit from streamlined rules on flight time, duty and rest requirements in a proposal being announced Friday by federal regulators.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a written statement ahead of the announcement, 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 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."

The proposal, now published in the Federal Register, will be subject to a 60-day public comment period to help determine whether it should be approved, modified or rejected. The deadline for those comments is November 13.

CNN's Paul Courson contributed to this report.