By Debbie Hersman
Tragically, the NTSB has investigated too many accidents across all modes of transportation where fatigue has been a factor. We have seen firsthand what can happen from the debilitating effects of fatigue. In fact, fatigue has been on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements since 1990.
Over the first century of powered flight, countless accidents trace pilot fatigue as a contributing factor. Human fatigue was the probable cause for the 1993 American International Airways flight 808 crash in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Other air carrier accidents that involved fatigued pilots include American Airlines flight 1420 at Little Rock, Ark.; Corporate Airlines flight 5966 accident at Kirksville, Mo.; and, most recently, the Colgan Air flight 3407 accident outside Buffalo, N.Y.
This is why the NTSB is so pleased that the FAA today issued a long-awaited science-based rule for flight and duty time. Secretary LaHood and former FAA Administrator Babbitt have worked long and hard to shepherd this contentious rule through the rulemaking process. We applaud the leadership of DOT and FAA for bringing it across the finish line.
While this is not a perfect rule, it is a huge improvement over the status quo for large passenger operations. Yet, we are extremely disappointed that the new rule is limited to Part 121 passenger airlines. A tired pilot is a tired pilot, whether there are 10 paying customers on board or 100, whether the payload is passengers or pallets.
We look forward to working with the FAA and the aviation community to support the rule’s essential education and training components and to identify areas where additional measures are needed.