Pilots Associations Still Challenging Cargo Exemption

The Independent Pilots Association has filed new comments offering its own economic analysis that challenges FAA's cost and benefit estimates used to justify excluding cargo airlines from the fatigue regulation.

The Independent Pilots Association, representing UPS pilots, has renewed its challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration's proposed exclusion of cargo operations from the FAA pilot fatigue proposed rule. IPA challenged the exclusion in a federal appeals court in December 2011, and FAA agreed to go back and review its cost and benefit calculations. When the federal agency issued a new benefit cost analysis in December 2012 and left the exclusion in place, IPA commissioned its own economic analysis and revealed its findings Feb. 11.

During a news conference Feb. 11, union President Capt. Robert Travis said IPA's position is that FAA lacked the authority to utilize a benefit cost analysis (BCA) at all in this rulemaking, but if it did have authority, FAA should at least do it right. "We found so many mistakes, working with our expert, that we are ready to put forth an alternative, reasonable BCA" showing net benefits to aviation safety, Travis said.

The expert is economist and management consultant David M. Berkey. With his help, IPA calculated the projected costs for compliance by cargo carriers would be at least $175 million lower than FAA estimated, and the benefits of avoiding even one fatigue-related cargo flight accident would be $375 million to $750 million -– 12 to 25 times higher than FAA's highest estimate for those benefits. FAA based its $1.8 million estimate of the value of a cargo aircraft that would be lost in a crash on the 727, which "will be virtually out of the fleet by the 2014-2023 benefit analysis period," according to IPA, and FAA valued the loss of cargo at $2.7 million. But according to IPA, the value of a 757's cargo could be $125 million, and that value should be adjusted for inflation. The union also challenges FAA's assumptions that no passengers would be aboard a cargo aircraft that crashed and no people or structures on the ground would be hurt or damaged.

Travis said IPA hopes these newly filed comments will change FAA's decision to exclude cargo, but if not, the union's court action will continue.

All of the U.S. pilots' unions have been urging members of Congress to ensure the cargo exclusion is removed, Travis said. "We are all, collectively as a group, shoulder to shoulder in this effort."

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