air travel

A pilots union has mounted a legal challenge to the FAA's exclusion of cargo operations from the final flight and duty time rule issued yesterday.

The Independent Pilots Association (IPA) filed a Petition for Review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit aimed at having cargo operations included within the scope of the rule.

IPA General Counsel William Trent said the association is seeking the inclusion because of the safety benefits provided by the rule.

The new final rule, which is aimed at reducing crashes caused by pilot fatigue, overhauls commercial passenger airline pilot scheduling to ensure pilots have a longer opportunity for rest before they enter the cockpit.

Trent said the IPA, which represnts 2,700 UPS pilots, will challenge the rule on multiple substantive and procedural grounds.

"The internal inconsistency of the final rule is remarkable. For example, the FAA states that current regulations do not adequately
address the risk of fatigue (Rule p.19,) and that the maintenance of the status quo presents an 'unacceptably high aviation accident risk' (Rule p. 259.) Yet two of the very factors that the FAA cites as exacerbating the risk of pilot fatigue—operating at night and crossing multiple time zones (Rule p.5) are more present in cargo operations than in passenger operations," said Trent.

"The FAA's only basis for excluding cargo rests on a cost benefit analysis," said Trent. "Yet, the Agency does not articulate how it arrived at either the projected costs or benefits of applying the final rule to cargo operators. The rule is wholly and utterly opaque when it comes to providing any factual support for the cost benefit conclusions reached," he added.

He also criticized the FAA for allowing cargo operators to supplement the record after the public comment period was officially closed.

"Accepted into the closed record was unsupported costing data provided by carriers. This data has not been subject to public scrutiny or review," Trent added.

In January, IPA will file additional court papers including a preliminary statement of issues it expects to raise in the case.