PLANE TALK: GOT A QUESTION? ASK THE CAPTAIN!
Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.
" I am curious about those DOT/FAA Improved Pilot Crew Rest Rules. Can you tell me what they are?"
I see you are wondering what’s different, so here are the main Federal Aviation Administration changes:
- ON DUTY HOURS: 9 to 14 per day
- INCREASE REST PERIOD BY 2 HOURS
- PILOTS CAN SAY THEY ARE FATIGUED
Will these rules help?
And, if they do, will the flying public be willing to pay for the extra costs that will be added to their airline tickets?
Before answering you, here is a little background on just some problems associated with pilots flying in a diminished capacity….like ah….”sleep flying”.
If only it were funny.
Let me tell you a teensy-weensy bedtime story that I may have witnessed…more than once.
I would like to make one thing perfectly nebulous here…
There may have been an occasion or two, where, let’s say, a pilot controlling a very large commercial airliner fell under the spell of that Greek mythological god, Hypnos, a.k.a. Sleep. That pilot probably took off several hours earlier, in the dead of night.
His point of departure may have been from a very popular vacation rock, which is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His destination, but of course, was the City of Angels.
Now, on arrival, everything probably seemed “hunky-dorey”, but when the controllers cleared him to turn to intercept the localizer, which is basically, the extended centerline of the landing runway, the pilot clearly turned in the opposite direction from the one that was needed to get him to that big old airport.
“Oooooops”, I said to him, "If you turn this big puppy to the right, we’ll be perfectly lined up”….but he turned the jet even more to the left.
That is when I looked him in the eyes.
Hummmmm???… reality check… .the lights were on, but nobody was home.
So, I was forced to give him a light San Andreas Quake Shake….no less than a seven on the Richter Scale.
Voila, he was back and in control.
The point of this little story is to tell you that behind the clock flying (between dark time and the crack of dawn) is tough on pilots, no matter what.
So what are the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the New Rules?
Something that I learned early in my career…”Go Ugly Early”…
So let’s start with the money, where it’s going to be really UGLY.
All these new rules will force the airlines to hire more pilots to cover their same schedule. So, there will be a fare increase. But will it make flying safer?
I think so.
So, there is the GOOD.
And the BAD….???
The new and improved FAA rule says that pilots can declare that they are too fatigued to fly…….Haaaaaaaaaaa.
That is a big BAD joke.
If you think for a nanosecond that these companies will NOT suddenly find a reason or two to get these complaining little suckers, you will probably be sadly mistaken.
And, there is a greater likelihood of me being right than wrong.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the air cargo companies are exempt from the enhanced safety rules.
It seems like big money talks louder than safety, doesn’t it? Are either of us surprised?
Answering your questions in our ASK THE CAPTAIN column is, Michael Wiggins, a retired airline pilot who has spent the better part of his life shuttling passengers around the globe. Do you have questions for YourLifeIsATrip's airline pilot? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.