WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced new rules aimed at preventing dangerous fatigue among passenger aircraft pilots. The rules do not affect all-cargo aircraft pilots.
The new rules are in response to a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009 that killed 50 people.
Under the new rules:
• Flight-duty times would range from nine to 14 hours. Additionally, rather than just counting flight time and rest time, flight-duty time would include the time spent flying to the job, which, as in railroading, is called deadheading;
• Flight-time limits will be eight or nine hours, depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty.
• Minimum rest periods will be 10 hours between shifts. The pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep during that rest period.
• Pilots must have 30 consecutive hours of rest each week, which is a 25 percent increase over current standards.
The new rules do, however, allow pilots to sit at the controls for an hour longer per day, from eight hours to as many as nine.
Also, pilots flying late at night, across multiple time zones or on schedules involving numerous landings and takeoffs, will work shorter shifts than those flying during the day.
The rule also requires pilots to sign paperwork verifying that they are rested before each flight, in an attempt to educate them and highlight the need for personal responsibility.
The National Transportation Safety Board has urged safety enhancements to reduce pilot fatigue for decades. Although the board didn’t blame fatigue as a cause in the Colgan crash, it found that neither pilot appeared to have slept in a bed the night before the accident.
The rules will take effect in two years, and cost passenger airlines $297 million over 10 years. The rules will, however, save airlines $247 million to $470 million in reduced accidents and lower health-care expenses for pilots, according to the FAA.
WASHINGTON – Federal Transit Administration bus-project and other transit funding – in danger owing to political squabbling — will remain in place at least through March 31, 2012, following House and Senate action to extend temporarily, for the eighth time since 2009, highway taxes that fund transit programs.
The House and Senate also agreed Sept. 15 to a new four-month extension of Federal Aviation Administration taxes that fund the Essential Air Services program vital to regional airlines that employ UTU-represented pilots and flight attendants. It was the 22nd temporary extension for this program since 2007.
The president said he will sign the temporary extensions into law, allowing more time for the House and Senate to continue attempts at reaching compromise on a permanent extension of transit and EAS programs that have been stalled for years.
The highway bill extension ensures that more than $4 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for Federal Transit Administration formula and bus programs will remain available for spending through March 31. Disagreement between the House and Senate on the number of years to authorize a new highway/transit spending bill is the reason for that stall.
A permanent FAA reauthorization, which includes the EAS program, is stalled over an inability to agree on future EAS subsidies, and an attempt by House Republicans to include in the bill a provision overturning a 2010 National Mediation Board rulemaking. That rulemaking changed the rules for representation elections from counting those not voting as “no” votes, to determining outcomes based only on those voting.
WASHINGTON – The Republican chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. John Mica of Florida, added to his anti-labor reputation July 19 by inserting language in an aviation bill aimed at pressuring Senate Democrats to overturn a National Mediation Board decision allowing more democratic representation elections among airline and rail workers.
Not to be lost here is that were the UTU tentative national rail agreement rejected, and the outcome turned over to third parties, Mica would take the lead in deciding the outcome – and it is likely he would push for a congressionally imposed settlement quite unfavorable to workers.
Mica’s latest assault on labor is in the form of legislative language to halt essential air service subsidies to states of three labor-friendly Senate Democrats — Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
Rockefeller told the Associated Press that the Mica action was in retaliation for Senate Democrats refusing to accept an anti-labor provision in a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill.
Mica, who is pushing to eliminate Amtrak, slash transit funding and prevent Transportation Security Administration workers from joining a union, has been on a tear to overturn an NMB ruling that brings airline and railroad representation elections in tune with all other democratic elections.
The NMB last year ended a 75-year practice that counted those not voting in rep elections as having voted against union representation. Instead, rep elections are now determined by a majority those actually voting.
No other democratic elections count those not voting as having cast negative ballots. The NMB merely brought airline and railroad rep elections under the same rules affecting all other elections in America. Indeed, if congressional elections followed the old NMB procedure, which Mica wishes to restore, many House and Senate lawmakers would not have been elected.
Mica is piqued that the changed NMB rep-election rule could make it easier for unions to organize airline and railroad workers.
Although the Republican controlled House voted to overturn the new NMB rep-election rule as part of a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Senate has refused to go along.
The result has been a stalemate and a series of extensions to keep the FAA operating. In the latest extension effort, Mica inserted language eliminating essential air service to the states of the Reid, Rockefeller and Baucus, who are among the most staunch opponents of overturning the NMB ruling through legislation.
It is a game of chicken, because if the latest extension is not passed, thousands of FAA employees would be furloughed, although the nation’s air traffic control system would continue operating. The Senate has showed no sign of capitulating to Mica.
What do the Nov. 2 congressional election results mean for UTU members and their families?
Consider these facts that are not always obvious:
While it is true that organized labor has more friends among Democrats, many of the Republicans elected Nov. 2 are friends of working families, and they received UTU PAC support and were on our voting recommendations list.
The UTU is a bipartisan union, historically and consistently looking beyond party labels to reward each and every friend of working families.
Among our Republican friends, for example, are Rep. Don Young of Alaska, and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Republican Sen. Hatch is one of the strongest congressional defenders of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), while Republican Rep. Young has been one of the UTU’s most ardent supporters in the House of Representatives.
One of the most important congressional committees to UTU members — airline, bus and rail — is the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, where most legislation affecting the transportation industries originates. Among Transportation & Infrastructure Committee members, more than 66 percent — Democrats and Republicans — who were endorsed by the UTU won re-election Nov. 2.
In all congressional races Nov. 2, more than 60 percent of UTU endorsed candidates won election or re-election. Imagine if you could win a poker hand more than 60 percent of the time, or hit safely six of 10 times at bat as a major league ballplayer.
Despite the change in party control in the House of Representatives, UTU recommended candidates are still a majority, meaning the UTU National Legislative Office can continue to work successfully on issues that matter to our members — job security, safety, health care and retirement benefits, as well as adequate public funding for Amtrak and public transit.
Key regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, National Mediation Board, and National Labor Relations Board, will continue to have labor-friendly majority control.
The UTU’s GOTV — “get out the vote” — effort this election year resulted in thousands of UTU members and families, who were not previously registered or hadn’t voted in the previous (2006) non-presidential election, registering to vote and casting ballots in congressional races.
In states where early voting is permitted, preliminary polling by GOTV shows that as many as 20 percent of UTU members and spouses who cast an early ballot had not voted in the 2006 non-presidential election. This proved important in close races.
On behalf of the UTU, GOTV — in partnership with UTU state legislative directors and the UTU Auxiliary — made more than 210,000 unique member contacts in 28 states via the postal service, e-mail and telephone calls, urging UTU members and their families to register to vote and to vote in this election.
By encouraging a higher percentage of UTU members to register to vote and to vote, we demonstrate to candidates the power of UTU endorsements — and, especially, that in close races, a UTU endorsement has great value to a candidate.
Candidates remember their friends in the same manner organized labor remembers its friends.
As the proverb says, “It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes a difference.” What the UTU PAC and GOTV demonstrate to candidates of all political stripes is that the UTU is a friend worth having.
The UTU has always had a great legislative program, but what we have accomplished this election through GOTV sets a new standard and benchmark to measure future advances.
When the new Congress is seated in 2011, we will be working closely with our old and new friends to continue advancing the UTU legislative agenda on behalf of our members.
Fatigue is a serious problem for pilots and flight attendants. Flight attendants additionally are without protections afforded under the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
The UTU, working with the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, as well as the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants, is focused on both of these issues on behalf of UTU’s airline industry members.
Current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations permit lengthy and irregular shifts across multiple time zones. There are numerous instances of flight crews being given only eight hours of rest between shifts, and that includes travel to and from the airline terminal, which frequently permits as few as three to five hours of actual sleep.
As we know too well in the railroad industry — and as has been documented by sleep scientists at major universities — going to work fatigued is like going to work drunk. The difference is that an intoxicated person sobers up; but a fatigued transportation worker only becomes more fatigued.
Federal regulation and enforcement is needed, and additional help is on the way with the recent confirmation by the Senate of former airline pilot Randy Babbitt to be the federal aviation administrator. Prior to his nomination by President Obama to head the FAA, Babbitt served on an independent review team examining and making recommendations to improve the FAA’s aviation safety system.
In fact, Babbitt said in June that the FAA will propose, by fall, new limits on how many hours airline pilots can fly. Babbitt said the new limits will take into consideration that pilots flying routes with numerous takeoffs and landings experience more fatigue than pilots on longer flights with only one takeoff and landing.
Current FAA regulations permit pilots to be on duty up to 16 hours, with eight hours of scheduled flight time, and airlines can order them back to work with as few as eight hours between shifts.
The February crash of a commuter plane near Buffalo, N.Y., which killed 50 people, gives greater urgency to revising aviation hours-of-service rules because it was determined that the co-pilot of the doomed flight commuted overnight from near Seattle.
Babbitt said, also, that he wants airlines — including commuter carriers — to participate in two safety programs studying airline safety.
As for flight attendants, they are currently under FAA safety-rules jurisdiction rather than OSHA rules. Yet, the FAA has never prescribed or enforced safety and health standards or regulations, which are the core of OSHA regulations. The administration of George H.W. Bush refused to impose specific workplace protections in the aircraft cabin that had been informally agreed to by airlines.
So it is that the UTU, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants are working jointly in support of legislation requiring the FAA to establish regulations to provide a cabin environment free from hazards that can cause physical harm.
It is expected that Babbitt will move to set such rules, although legislation would ensure they could not be tampered with by future administrations less concerned with workplace safety.