Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Senior Special Writer Andy Pasztor states:
Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt, in his most detailed comments yet about combating pilot fatigue, vowed to tailor future regulations to better reflect the safety challenges facing commuter pilots. In a speech to the country’s largest commercial-pilot union, the agency’s administrator said the current "one size fits all" regulations don’t adequately take into account fatigue typically experienced by commuter pilots, some of whom fly five or more segments per day.
This speech by Administrator Babbitt underscores the growing concern about Pilot fatigue and safety of the aircraft that are flown. Ever since it came to light that the co-pilot of the Continental Flight 3407, which crashed in Buffalo, New York, had commuted from Seattle to Newark to be on the flight, and that the pilot was not familiar with the de-icing procedures for the type of aircraft he was flying, pilot training, fatigue and maintenance have been hot topics.
Administrator Babbitt vowed in his speech to the Air Line Pilots Air Safety Forum not to wait until the Congress gets its act together and passes legislation. He said that he has set up a rulemaking committee studying fatigue: "I want to make sure that we get the answers we need as working men and women aviators. In rulemaking not only does one size not fit all, but it’s unsafe to think that it can."
Although not part of his rulemaking committee, Administrator Babbitt also mentioned that the FAA is holding a series of 12 nationwide airline safety forums aimed at "stimulat[ing] a safer, more professional enviroment at regional airlines. . . the discussions are focusing on air carrier management responsibilities for crew education and support, professional standards, flight discipline, training standards and performeance."
This is not to say that Congress is standing still waiting to see the outcome of these rules and meetings. The Senate Subcommittee on Aviation has a held a series of three hearings on Aviation Safety, the most recent being August 6, 2009, which focused on "the relationship between the major, or network, airlines and their regional airline partners." (Witness lists for the three hearings appear after the jump). The goal, as expressed by Subcommittee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is to "to determine if there are further steps we can or must take to ensure there is one level of safety throughout the commercial air transportation system."
Maybe Administrator Babbitt got it right when he concluded his remarks by stating that "if you think the safety bar is set too high, your sights are set way too low."