Airlines Put Profit Over Passenger Safety in Letter to White House

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October 6, 2011

The Air Transport Association (ATA) sent a letter to the White House budget office on September 15, 2011 claiming that pending regulation designed to fight pilot fatigue would lead to the loss of 27,000 industry jobs and cost $2 billion a year. The ATA, US airline carrier's top trade group, told the Obama administration that airlines would simply be unable to bear the costs associated with the new regulation.

The pilot fatigue regulation, proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2010, includes boosting pilot rest requirements and limiting daily, weekly and monthly flight hours. The legislation was sparked by the tragic crash of a Colgan Air commuter flight in 2009, which killed 50. An investigation into the fatal plane crash revealed that pilot fatigue was a contributing factor, triggering outrage and criticism of pilot training and current regulation.

The letter sent by the airlines cited a 10-year estimate analysis by Oliver Wyman consultants. According to the ATA, job losses "at a time when unemployment persists" would be staggering. Nowhere in the letter, however, is the ATA's concern for public safety a priority.

"As to the airlines' 'study' that tightening up pilot rest and duty time rules to address the proven link between pilot fatigue and airline crashes would cost money, I find it very disturbing that the airline industry would so easily cast aside public safety under the guise of job elimination. Something must be done and to do nothing and let people keep dying is an outrage." said Baum Hedlund attorney and former airline captain, John Greaves.

"These figures of job loss and loss of two billion revenue dollars are unsupported by any other credible data than the airline industry's self-serving 'report.' Even if true, the message is still just as egregious."

"The issue of pilot fatigue has been shown to be at the root of numerous airline accidents for decades, and yet the so-called safe limits on pilot flight and duty times are demonstratively at odds with reality," Greaves said, adding, "Study after study has shown that a 16-hour duty day with a mere eight hours of downtime until the next cycle is inadequate and inconsistent with good airline safety policy."