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2009 Buffalo Crash Inspires Federal Government To Rethink Airline Pilot Fatigue

Doomed Flight Out Of Newark Said To Be Reason For Costly New Set Of Rules
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Newark Liberty International Airport (credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The federal government announced new regulations Wednesday to keep tired pilots out of the cockpit.

As CBS 2’s Manuel Gallegus reports, the new rules were prompted by a deadly accident involving a plane that took off from Newark Liberty International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration is giving tired pilots a break. New federal rules require airlines to allow pilots 10 hours to rest between shifts, to prevent them from flying fatigued. That’s two hours more than current rules.

“America’s skies are safest, but we can always do more. We will never let up” in addition to the 10 hours of rest,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

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The new rules also require 30 consecutive hours a week off the job, and flight times must be no longer than eight or nine hours. Pilots and airlines must also take joint responsibility in reporting fatigue. Pilots must confirm with the airline that they are rested and fit to fly before each flight. If they don’t, the airline must remove them from duty.

“Every pilot has a personal responsibility to arrive at work rested. Safety advocates have been recommending stricter rules for more than two decades,” said Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The effort got a new push after the 2009 crash of a regional carrier’s plane near Buffalo, N.Y., which killed 50 people. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found both pilots of Colgan Air Flight 3407 were likely suffering from fatigue.

Until now the regulations covering pilots and their work schedules hadn’t really changed much since the 1960s.

Airlines have two years to comply with the rules, which apply only to passenger flights. Cargo carriers are exempt because of cost. The FAA said it will urge them to comply anyway.

The FAA estimates the work rule changes will cost the industry almost $300 million.

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