Last Sunday morning’s crash of a Learjet with renowned singer Jenni Rivera aboard recently jumped into the forefront of the news cycle. The aircraft departed Monterrey, Mexico at 3:15 AM en route to Toluca, Mexico. It was reported the aircraft was it 35,000 feet and made a rapid descent to 9,000 feet, during which time air traffic control communication was lost. At 3:30 AM the aircraft slammed into the high terrain South of Monterrey. All seven people aboard were killed, including the two pilots. The Learjet was chartered from a Las Vegas based company.
The media have not yet discussed or even mentioned the likelihood of tired pilots in the cockpit. It will be very interesting to read the final NTSB report that will hopefully have a report of the two pilots most recent rest period prior to the flight. Based on my experience of eight years flying chartered Learjets I would be near certain that pilot fatigue played a major role in this accident. The world of on-demand jet charter lends itself to frequent scenarios that result in severely fatigued pilots flying high profile wealthy people. A 3:15 AM departure would require the pilots to have been awake since no later than 1:30 AM. It is likely and almost certain that they were prepared for departure several hours prior to the actual departure. On-demand jet charter is fraught with significant delays. It is not likely that anyone would schedule a flight departure for 3:15 AM.
Also relating to pilot fatigue, the FAA has just determined that the lawsuit filed by UPS cargo pilot union, IPA has no merit. This lawsuit was in reference to the revised crew rest, flight time and duty limitations that are to be implemented on January 15, 2014. These new rules were mandated to enhance aviation safety after the crash of Continental flight 3407 (operated by Colgan air) in Buffalo on January 12 2009. These revised rules for commercial pilots operating in the FAR 121 airline environments were mandated by Congress. As a result of lobbying and special interest groups influence all cargo airline operations were exempt from these new rules— effectively an exemption from operating at a much higher level of safety. As I stated in my book, The Rogue Aviator, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you— unless you are a pilot who might want to get a little sleep.”
The media has barely scratched the surface of this onerous failure to reduce the pilot fatigue factor in cargo airline aircraft. My book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer, elaborates on the subject as it points out the obvious; if allowed, corporate profits will always trump any element of safety that might be implemented. Unbeknownst to most laymen, the power of airline unions has been a significant contributor to aviation safety. A review of aircraft accidents operated by nonunion pilots will validate this. The exemption of cargo pilots from reasonable work rules that result in minimizing pilot fatigue in the cockpit will reveal a continuation of aircraft crashes and incidents that were piloted by very tired pilots.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott (pen name), author of The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation, (www.therogueaviator.com or http://goo.gl/Y2LhX, and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com or http://goo.gl/Gzucw.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged ace abbott, air traffic control on-demand charter, aviation safety, cargo airlines, Colgan Air, continental flight 3407, corporate profits, dead tired:pilot fatigue-aviation's insidious killer, FAA, far 121, jenni rivera, las vegas based, Learjet, NTSB, onterrey mexico, The Rogue Aviator, Tired pilots, toluca mexico, unions
A recent USA Today article delved into the major factor that undermines airline safety; that, of course, is pilot fatigue. A poll they conducted revealed that one-quarter of the pilots surveyed find themselves on the job in a fatigued state. After the February, 2009 Continental #3407 (Colgan Air) accident in Buffalo, where tired pilots in the cockpit played a major role, the FAA finally responded to the tired pilots syndrome, as a result of some prodding by Congress, and went to work on formulating some updated rules and regulations that would govern the flight time and duty time limitations for airline pilots working under the FAR 121 mandates. This was all-well-and-good with a couple of small caveats. The first is that the final compliance with these new rules will occur nearly 5 years after the initial discussions regarding the importance of the need to prevent lives being jeopardized by tired pilots in the cockpit. The second major shortcoming of the new rules relate to all-cargo airlines. They are exempt!
But now back to the bright side. The FAA, the DOT, the airline management folks and the unions, did an excellent job of evaluating all aspects of pilot fatigue and the revised rules deal with the many variables quite well. The new rules reduce the maximum time on duty from 16 to 13 hours. Research has revealed that after 13 hours, the diminished functionality of the pilot is equivalent to someone who had a .05 blood-alcohol level. As an ex-non-sked charter pilot who experienced too many 20 hour duty days, I will readily attest to being in the cockpit in this awful physiological condition. Research has also revealed that after 13 hours of duty, the rate of mistakes that result in accidents increase by 5 times over one who is well-rested. After 8 hours of duty the accident rate increases exponentially.
The new rules will very definitely save a lot of lives and crunched aluminum air machines. Amongst the very positive changes is consideration for the “circadian rhythm monster” which is as insidious as single-time-zone pilot fatigue. This is well addressed in the new changes along with a requirement for flight crew and management training regarding pilot fatigue—it addresses developing an awareness of fatigue in the cockpit and possible countermeasures. Most importantly, the new rules state that if a flight crew member informs the company that he/she is too tired to fly, there can be no action taken against that pilot. In certain realms of aviation the pilot that tells the boss he has to cancel a flight to get some rest, he would be fired.
And now comes the monster caveat: The revised rules do not apply to all-cargo operations! That is correct. The question is: Will that cargo-laden Boeing 747 (for instance) make less of an impact when it slams into the school or hospital than a passenger carrying 747? That is an easy one—emphatically no! Why did this anomaly arise? It has to do with the bottom line of the cargo carrier and the power of the lobbyists in Washington that influence our government. A quote from the rule-makers is as follows: “The final rule does not apply to all-cargo operations, although these carriers have the ability under the new rules if they so choose.” It should be noted that the instances of airplane crashes with tired pilots in the cockpits of cargo airplanes is off-the-scale higher than passenger-carrying airline crashes. The all-cargo loophole should be fought tooth-and-nail by all pilots. The passenger pilot can shortly fine himself in the “night-freight-dog” world. For more information about the professional pilot’s trials and tribulations of pilot fatigue I suggest that you read The Rogue Aviator; in the Back Alleys of Aviation.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com)
Posted in Tired pilots crash airplanes
Tagged boeing 747, cargo airlines, circadian rhythm, Colgan Air, Congress, Continental 3407, dot, FAA, pilot fatigue, The Rogue Aviator, Tired pilots, usa today
DO YOU WANT THE LEFT SEAT IN THIS BOEING OR A SEAT IN A CUBICLE?
For all the hungry young pilots that are excited about an aviation career but not very optimistic about the job market, please be advised the FAA has finally stepped forward to give you a boost. The long over-due FAA regulation revisions will result in a much-needed spike in pilot hiring in the next two years. The reduction from 16 to 13 hours of maximum duty time for domestic flights along with the reduction of the maximum flight time depending on the time of day that the duty period begins are going to create a need for thousands of extra pilots to fill those seats. The downside is that the airlines have been given another two years to adopt the new rules. The severely procrastinated legislation was a direct result of the airlines dragging their heels regarding the implementation time frame. Most pilots are not severely overworked unless they end up in the non-sked/ “freight dog” world of commercial aviation but the regional carriers have been working 16 hour duty days for far too long. Unfortunately, these young aspiring legacy airline pilots will still be trapped in a job that pays them a deplorably low salary.
Ridiculously enough, the FAA has said that pilots flying cargo-only aircraft will still be subject to the old and often draconian rules that result in tired pilots in the cockpit and a much higher accident/incident rate. On the bright side there are many factions amongst the movers-and-shakers of aviation that are attempting to inject some common sense into the situation and are attempting to have all commercial pilots operate under the new and more restrictive regulations. It should be concluded that the Boeing 747 filled with Jet Fuel and cargo will have the same effect on the school that it crashes into as would a passenger-filled 747. The FAAs’ buckling under to the special interest and lobbyists of K Street in Washington, DC is one of the great acts of unjustifiable hypocrisy in the history of aviation. I am hopeful that the aviation unions and cargo pilots will continue to scream and shout until the FAA relinquishes its unjustifiable position that undermines aviation safety.
Along with the thousands of additional pilots needed to solve this airline manning dilemma the rate of retirements amongst the legacy air carriers in the next few years will skyrocket. Furthermore, very few of the military pilots are leaving the security of their government jobs. More aviation employment upside is the burgeoning of commercial aviation in India and China and it is likely they will be seeking U.S. trained aviators. For elaboaration and confirmation please google the following phrase; “China recruits experiencd pilots from the U.S.-ABC News.” Cathay Pacific, Japan Air Lines and Korean Airlines have traditionally hired American pilots. Latin carriers such as Copa have been hiring American pilots in recent years. Bombardier, a large supplier of aircraft to the corporate jet set delivered 182 jets in 2011.
An aviation career is an adventure and unless you are an ex-naval aviator with carrier landing experience there are no certainties. For purposes of motivation I suggest that you read The Rogue Aviator: in the Back Alleys of Aviation by Ace Abbott (www.therogueaviator.com). While the book reveals some of the dark under-belly of the aviation world it also points out that an aviation career can be a lot of fun. Very few career pilots have ever said, “I sure wish I had taken that job selling insurance.”
This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com)
Posted in new rest rules require new pilots
Tagged abc news, b-747, bombardier, cargo airlines, Cathay Pacific, china, Cnina airlines, copa, ex-naval aviator, FAA, india, japan airlines, korean airlines, pan am academy, pilot careers, rest rules for pilots, The Rogue Aviator