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Senate Democrats want Pilot-Rest Provision in FAA Bill

April 18, 2016
Democrats want Pilot-Rest Provision FAA Bill

As both sides of the aisle try to push the Federal Authorization Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill through, Senate Democrats are looking to add on a pilot rest provision. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are leading the fight to attach an amendment to the FAA bill that would limit cargo plane pilots to flying no more than nine hours a day, the same standard for passenger pilots. Cargo pilots can currently fly up to 16 hours a day.

Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the retired airline captain who safely executed an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009, is also backing the provision. He was spotted talking to members about the amendment in the Senate basement after a Tuesday press conference. "Fatigue is a killer," Sullenberger said at the press conference. "It's time to right this wrong. It's time to fix this rule."

"There are other problems with the bill that people are weighing as well, so I think this bill has a very shaky future," Boxer added. Boxer said she would filibuster the FAA bill if the pilot provision does not get a vote. "I think this is an absurdity to block a vote on something as important at this," she said.

The DOT standards require passenger pilots to be limited to flying either eight or nine hours, with a minimum of 10 rest hours and the opportunity for at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. But cargo pilots were not included in the rules.

A group of shipping companies wrote a letter to Senate leadership explaining why they thought the amendment "could actually make our operations less safe and put our pilots at risk." "Measures used to prevent fatigue must be different for passenger carriers than they are for cargo carriers because our work schedules are different," wrote FedEx, UPS, ABX Air and Atlas Air. "We fly fewer legs, have longer layovers, and have better rest opportunities on our trips, including while technically 'on duty' waiting for our nightly sorts to occur."

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