Go! Sleeping Pilots: Airlines Say No Problem

The FAA and Airlines are at odds over pilot rest, and it mostly comes down to money. As a frequent traveler I vote for nap time on the ground rather than in the air. Getting a great Hawaii travel deal is one thing, but what’s more important, saving money or saving lives?

Crew fatigue has been cited as a factor in more than 320 airline accidents and nearly 750 deaths over the past 50 years, according to one analysis of NTSB and FAA data.

It’s been nearly three years since the Go! Airlines pilots fell asleep while en route to Hilo from Honolulu. The pilots flew 25 miles past their destination while air traffic control (ATC) attempted to rouse them. One of the pilots later told the FAA that it wasn’t unusual for him to sleep for the full 20 minutes of the inter-island flight.

A few months later, a similar incident occurred when an Air India flight overshot its destination by nearly 400 miles on a flight from Jaipur to Mumbai. Once again, the pilots were asleep and were luckily awakened by ATC.

Last year the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSFB) determined that pilots impaired by fatigue caused the deaths of 50 people, including themselves in a Continental Air crash near Buffalo.

New Crew Rest Rules Proposed

The FAA is proposing that pilots get additional rest: nine hours between shifts and 30 consecutive hours off per week. At the same time, however, the new rule increases the maximum number of hours per shift from 8 to 10.

Airlines Resist

The Airlines’ trade group is now saying that the FAA plan is ill-conceived and will be onerously expensive, costing airlines $20 billion over ten years. Strangely the FAA projected the cost at just over 1 billion.

Even the pilots labor unions, which favor changing fatigue rules, have complained that the FAA failed to reach consensus and have complained about the additional shift hours.

The new rule will become final next August unless something changes in the meanwhile.


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