Bill Would Apply Same Rest Rules to Cargo Flights as Commercial Airlines to Prevent Dangers Posed by Fatigued Pilots

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) reintroduced the Safe Skies Act, which would ensure that America’s cargo plane pilots are sufficiently rested and alert before they fly.

“It shouldn’t matter if a pilot is flying a cargo or a commercial plane – it is critical we address pilot fatigue,” Klobuchar said. “Closing this loophole will bring more consistency throughout the aviation industry to avert potential tragedies and ensure the safety of all involved.”

“Cargo pilots are subject to the same work requirements, stresses and fatigue as commercial passenger pilots, and for their safety and the safety of our skies, they should be provided the same opportunity for rest to avoid fatigue,” Blumenthal said. “This measure will close an unacceptable loophole that has created separate systems for cargo and passenger pilots – and reduce avoidable risk in the air. Fatigue is just as much a risk to pilots transporting people as it is to those transporting freight. Applying uniform standards to ensure that all pilots are well-rested will help ensure that our skies are safe and tragedies are avoided.”

“Safety in our skies is second to nothing. Since passenger and cargo planes share the same airspace and airports, both passenger and cargo pilots should be well rested,” Markey said. “That’s why I support the Safe Skies Act, which ensures parity in passenger and cargo pilot fatigue rules. I look forward to working with my colleague to pass this critical legislation.”

“The events of this week reaffirm the importance of adhering to the highest levels of safety throughout the aviation industry. Cargo pilots experience similar fatigue conditions as commercial pilots and deserve the same level of protection and certainty that makes our commercial system the safest in the world,” Duckworth said. “I’m proud to be working with Senator Klobuchar and my colleagues on this legislation to improve our nation’s aviation system by ensuring all pilots are able to get the rest they need to be fully alert when it’s time to work.”

After the tragic 2009 crash of Colgan Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, Congress passed legislation that directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to write new rules to address pilot fatigue. The legislation required pilots of passenger planes to be limited to flying either eight or nine hours, depending on the start time. It also required airlines provide pilots with a minimum of 10 rest hours, with the opportunity for at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.

However, pilots of cargo planes were left out of the DOT’s rest rules, allowing cargo pilots to be on duty for up to 16 hours a day, 60 percent longer than other pilots. This legislation would close this dangerous loophole and ensure that all pilots are flying under the same standards. The Safe Skies Act is supported by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA).