FAA Rechecking All-Cargo Costs for Fatigue Rule

The agency filed a motion May 17 asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to delay the case, saying it plans to reopen the record and invite new comments.

The Independent Pilots Association's challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration pilot fatigue rule took a big step forward May 17 when FAA said it will reopen the record and "disclose any errors" in its previous analysis of the costs and benefits of applying the rule to all-cargo operations. IPA, which represents about 2,600 UPS pilots, filed the court action in December 2011 after FAA exempted all-cargo operations from the rule, saying their compliance costs would significantly exceed the "quantified societal benefits." IPA and its president, Robert Travis, argued FAA's cost-benefit analysis didn't justify the exemption because it did not explain its analysis and failed to account for benefits.

Now, in FAA's May 17 motion seeking a delay in the case, FAA admits it "discovered errors in calculating the scope of costs associated with the implementation of the regulations for all-cargo operations. These errors are of sufficient amount," the motion says, "that the FAA believes that it is prudent to review the portion of its cost-benefit analysis related to all-cargo operations and allow interested parties an opportunity to comment on that analysis."

IPA issued a statement May 18 about what it called FAA's "surprise move."

"In the context of our lawsuit, the FAA is now willing to allow for an open and public examination of the costs and benefits of having one level of aviation safety," Travis said. "The IPA welcomes this development. Make no mistake, this is not a final victory. However, getting the FAA to reconsider this critical safety issue under the bright light of full public scrutiny and accountability is an important first step."

"This is the type of relief we asked the court to provide in our brief filed in April," said IPA General Counsel William Trent. "A flawed cost-benefit formula, issued at the last minute, without opportunity for public comment and examination, was at the core of our legal objections to the FAA's exclusion of cargo pilots from new science-based pilot rest rules."

The new rule's provisions are slated to come into effect in January 2014.

The motion and other documents filed in Independent Pilots Association v. Federal Aviation Administration, No. 11-1483, are available here.

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