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Pilot FatigueTargeted By FAA

FAA seeks data on pilots skipping sleep night before flight

John Hughes  Feb 25, 2010

U.S. airline regulators will seek data on how many pilots skip sleep the night before a flight, after a crash near Buffalo, New York, raised fatigue concerns.

The Federal Aviation Administration will ask carriers to examine voluntary safety reports by crews to see how often the issue of missed sleep surfaces, said Peggy Gilligan, the agency’s safety chief. She was pressed by senators for data on the issue at a hearing today in Washington on the crash.

“We’re flying in the dark here,” said James DeMint, a South Carolina Republican. “We don’t know much more today about how widespread it is than we did a year ago.”

The data may aid a push by advocates such as the National Transportation Safety Board for more federal action to combat fatigue. The Feb. 12, 2009, crash by Pinnacle Airlines Corp.’s Colgan unit near Buffalo killed 50 after the captain’s faulty response to a cockpit warning put the aircraft into an aerodynamic stall, the NTSB found this month.

Rebecca Shaw, 24, the co-pilot, traveled all night from Seattle to her job in Newark, New Jersey, before reporting to work on the day of the accident, the NTSB found. The captain, Marvin Renslow, 47, commuted from Tampa, Florida, to Newark Feb. 9 and spent two of the three nights in a crew lounge with no beds, the NTSB found.

Renslow “had experienced chronic sleep loss, and both he and the first officer had experienced interrupted and poor- quality sleep during the 24 hours before the accident,” the NTSB’s final report found.

“We don’t think that Colgan is unique,” NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman said today. “We think this goes on in the industry.”

Restricting Commutes

The FAA will request data through its twice-annual meetings with airlines on the Aviation Safety Action Program, in which workers voluntarily report safety flaws without fear of reprisal, Gilligan said. Regulators have already asked the industry through a rulemaking process about the possibility of restricting pilot commutes.

Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the Democrat who is chairman of the aviation subcommittee that held today’s hearing, said the industry may be boosting the risk of fatigue through its increasing use of regional jets with low-paid pilots who can’t afford motel rooms.

“Shouldn’t we just assume there is a larger problem here?” Dorgan said. “Maybe it has become a practice. If it is, it has to stop.”

FAA seeks data on pilots skipping sleep night before flight
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Source: Bloomberg

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