New Rule Aims to Prevent Tired Pilots

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation debuted a new rule on Wednesday intended to ensure commercial pilots get enough rest in between flights.

The rule sets a 10-hour minimum rest period prior to the flight duty period, a two-hour increase over the old policy, and also limits flight time to eight or nine hours, depending on the start time of the pilot’s shift.

It also places weekly and 28-day limits on the amount of time a pilot may be assigned any type of duty and requires pilots have at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty on a weekly basis, a 25% increase over the old policy.

Pilot fatigue was identified by the DOT as a priority following the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February 2009, which resulted in the deaths of 50 people, and the FAA says the new rule is based off of scientific research on fatigue.

The estimated cost of this rule to the aviation industry is $297 million, but the benefits are estimated between $247- $470 million, says the FAA.

“This is a major safety achievement,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press release. “We made a promise to the traveling public that we would do everything possible to make sure pilots are rested when they get in the cockpit. This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue.”

This is the second time this year that the FAA has adjusted policies to make sure personnel are better rested. Back in April, it changed air traffic controller scheduling practices to give controllers more rest between shifts.

—Jeanine Skowronski is staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach her by email at, or follow her on Twitter at @JeanineSko.

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