The Federal Aviation Administration missed its Aug. 1 deadline for issuing new rules that would keep exhausted airline pilots out of the cockpit, and families of plane crash victims are blaming the influence of the airline industry.
As ABC News reports, critics say that pilot fatigue frequently endangers airline passengers. More than two dozen accidents and over 250 fatalities have been linked to pilot fatigue over the past two decades, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, including the 2009 crash of Colgan flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., which killed 50 people.
“It’s very disappointing for us and to have these deadlines be missed is a significant setback,” said Scott Maurer, who lost his daughter Lorin in the Colgan crash.
In 2010, Congress passed a bill requiring the FAA to make new rules to prevent pilot fatigue. The FAA proposed lengthening the current eight-hour rest period between shifts for pilots and shortening the maximum workday, which is currently 16 hours.
FAA spokesman Les Dorr did not explain why the agency missed the deadline but in an e-mail to ABC news, he said the FAA is determined to ensure that pilots “are fit and rested when they report for duty.”
“The FAA is working aggressively to complete a new pilot fatigue rule, as well as separate rules that address pilot qualifications and training,” Dorr added.
According to The Wall Street Journal, release of the new rules could be weeks or even months away.
In a statement, the airline industry’s major trade group, the Air Transport Association, reiterated its position that the FAA must consider the potentially high costs, and rely on scientific research, before imposing a rule change.
The deadline was missed amid a partial shutdown of the FAA due to a Congressional stalemate on reauthorizing funding.
As The New York Times reports, the political impasse since July 23 has left 4,000 FAA employees unemployed, and airport safety inspectors are working without pay to keep airports operating safely. Air traffic controllers and airplane inspectors, who are paid with separate accounts, have continued to work.