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

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Al Franken (D-MN) today introduced 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 plane or a commercial plane—they need proper rest to ensure the safety of themselves, others in the air, and those on the ground,” Klobuchar said. “Closing this loophole will bring more consistency throughout the aviation industry to avert potential tragedies.”

“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 for passengers and crew is critical. Because passenger and cargo planes share the same airspace and airports, we need cargo and passenger pilots to be well rested,” Markey said. “That’s why I support this important legislation, which ensures parity in passenger and cargo pilot fatigue rules. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this critical legislation.”

“All pilots should be well-rested when they’re in the air,” Franken said. “The improved pilot fatigue rules adopted years ago left out cargo pilots, and those pilots may still be on duty up to 16 hours in a day. We need to uniformly apply these rules to both passenger and cargo pilots, and that’s why I’m proud to support the Safe Skies Act and make sure planes are flying safe in Minnesota and across our nation.”

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), the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA).