FAA and Industry Are Taking Action To Address Pilot Fatigue, But More Information On Pilot Commuting Is Needed
On September 12, 2011, we issued a report on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and industry efforts to address and enforce Federal regulations for flight crew rest requirements and fatigue issues. We conducted this review at the request of the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, as well as the former Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. This request was also reiterated by Representatives Louise Slaughter and Brian Higgins. We found that FAA has taken important and much needed steps to update flight, duty, and rest requirements for pilots, including publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) with revised regulations. However, FAA’s NPRM has encountered significant opposition from the aviation industry, posing a challenge for the Agency to implement. Additionally, the NPRM does not require carriers to identify pilots who commute, or to have policies addressing pilot domicile issues that impact commuting and fatigue. We also found that both air carriers and FAA have generally ensured compliance with current Federal flight, duty, and rest requirements. However, FAA inspectors do not fully review carriers’ self-disclosure data in instances of non-compliance with flight crew rest requirements, and there are areas where carriers can improve internal oversight controls. We made four recommendations to FAA to improve awareness of pilot commuting and fatigue. FAA concurred with or met the intent of two of our recommendations regarding self-disclosure data, which we now consider closed, but we are requesting a revised response for the remaining two recommendations regarding the collection and analysis of pilot domicile and commuting data.