The NTSB wants FAA to enact hours of service for flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers based on fatigue research, circadian rhythms, and sleep and rest requirements.

Senate Hearing Today Addresses Pilot Fatigue

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended for years that FAA establish hours of service for flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers.

Only nine days after the effective date on which the Federal Aviation Administration withdrew its 1995 proposed rule that would have set hours of service limits for commercial aviation crew members, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will conduct a hearing on the topic of pilot fatigue. The FAA said in its withdrawal notice that the 1995 proposal was "outdated" and promised to develop a new proposed rule later this year.

Pilot fatigue –- specifically, an hours of service regulation applied to flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers -- has been on the National Transportation Safety Board's Most Wanted list of aviation safety improvements since 1990. NTSB says the service limits should be based on fatigue research, circadian rhythms, and sleep and rest requirements. The same NTSB recommendation urges FAA to develop a fatigue awareness and countermeasures program for air traffic controllers.

The Senate committee's Web site does not identify witnesses who will be called to testify during today's hearing, which is scheduled to begin on Capitol Hill at 10:15 a.m. EST. Also beginning today in Washington, D.C. is the first International Runway Safety Conference at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel. The FAA, the American Association of Airport Executives, and MITRE Corp. will convene this "Taxiing Toward Tomorrow" meeting of nearly 500 people to focus on preventing runway incursions; FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, and Capt. Robert Bragg, a flight crew member involved in the 1977 runway collision of two jumbo jets at Tenerife, will headline the conference, which continues through Dec. 3. Participants from the Air Line Pilots Association, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Air Transport Association, EuroControl, and others will discuss human factors, airport layouts, technology, cockpit and air traffic control procedures, and safety management systems. FAA says FY2009 serious runway incursions dropped by 50 percent, but more work is needed to reduce them further.

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