One Level of Safety for All Pilots Now: Pass the Safe Skies Act.

Yesterday ALPA safety representatives attended the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigative hearing into UPS Flight 1354, an all-cargo flight which crashed on approach to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Ala., on August 14, 2013.

Pilot fatigue emerged as a focus area during the investigative hearing. Investigative materials from yesterday’s NTSB hearing discussed crew schedule and pairing for UPS pilots Captain Cerea Beal Jr. and First Officer Shanda Fanning.  While the first part of the pairing through the accident flight was consistent with the new flight and duty regulations, FAR part 117, this was only coincidence.  Because of the loophole in Part 117, UPS, like all cargo carriers, is not required to create schedules consistent with the improvement in safety provided by these science-based standards and programs.  The FAA erroneously excluded cargo from the new science-based flight and duty time regulations, and ALPA has been working diligently to correct this error with the passage of legislation, the Safe Skies Act, which would include cargo in the new rest rules.

The investigative hearing and docket material showed that fatigue is a factor in the cargo industry, especially based on their business model of flying predominately at night.  Evidence presented during the hearing, including comments made by the crew members and recorded on the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder indicate that the crew may have been suffering from chronic fatigue.  Because this airline, like all FAR 121 cargo operations, is not required to comply with the new FAR 117 flight and duty regulations it is likely that the airline scheduling practices and pairings caused the chronic fatigue suffered by this crew.

If all-cargo operations fell under the purview of FAR 117 like their passenger-carrying counterparts, the pilots at UPS would be given pairings that are less conducive to fatigue, and that may have helped prevent accidents like UPS Flight 1354 from occurring.

It is time that we moved forward on One Level of Safety for ALL operations – a Pilot is a Pilot – and we are not immune to fatigue based on the payload in the back of our aircraft.  ALPA calls on The Administration and Congress for immediate passage of the Safe Skies Act of 2013, which would end the “cargo carve-out” and help ensure that every pilot is a well-rested pilot.

Read the ALPA statement regarding this investigative hearing here.

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