Andy Paztor of the Wall Street Journal in an April 22 Article writes:
“Reducing pilot fatigue is a top priority for U.S. airline regulators. But new rules are being delayed by disagreements within the Obama administration over whether the anticipated safety improvements would justify the cost to airlines.
When U.S. Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt last summer launched a drive to update decades-old rules covering how many hours a day U.S. airline pilots can fly or remain on duty, the agency hoped to release draft regulations by early 2010.
That date later slipped by several months, but Mr. Babbitt and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood continued to say that keeping sleepy pilots away from the controls was essential. With Congress also prodding the FAA to move quickly, they talked about expedited White House review of regulatory changes.
Now, according to industry and government officials, the proposed changes are snagged by a dispute between the FAA and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Budget officials have informally told the FAA that the proposal’s projected cost to airlines wasn’t justified by the anticipated safety benefits, according to people familiar with the details. As a result, there could be further delays in agreeing on a package.
The FAA’s proposals could cost carriers billions of extra dollars through the next decade. But if the agency scales back the proposal to reduce likely costs, FAA and outside experts fear it would undercut basic safety goals. If that happens, some pilots’ unions have threatened to oppose the entire package.”
I find it interesting that the administration is suddenly concerned about the cost of the new duty rules and the White House OMB is now in the decision tree for rules that affect the safety of flight for airlines.
What expertise does the OMB have in areas of safety?
The committee formed by the FAA to come up with a new rule set was comprised of FAA, labor union representatives and industry representatives including experts in the areas of safety and fatigue. It would seem that this group would have a better grasp of the issues at hand than the OMB would.
I guess the concern is that this will cost the airlines billions. But what we all know is that the cost will be passed on to the traveling public, anyway. We need to be prepared to pay more money to fly if we want to keep it safe. The public needs to get used to the idea that maybe it is worth a few more dollars per ticket to have a safe crew up front guiding the aircraft they are riding on.
The current rules for crew duty time have been in place since the 1940s when aircraft could not fly the distances they fly today. The airlines of the 40s were not the same airlines we fly on today. One would hope that we have learned a few things about safety, not just with aircraft design, but also with the human factors involved in flight.
Originally the FAA was prepared to issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) this month; but, now, that has been pushed out to this Fall. I wonder how long this will drag out as the wheels of bureaucracy grind?
Is Safety on Hold?