Two pilots unions are attacking as irrelevant and “flawed” a new analysis that the agency says supports its decision to exclude cargo-only carriers from new crew-rest requirements for pilots. And both are vowing to continue their fight against the cargo-carrier exclusion, with the courts and Congress as the battlegrounds.
“We still reject the application of a cost/benefit analysis on the FAA’s Flightcrew Member Duty and Rest Requirements; we do not believe that it was Congress’ intent to address the important issue of pilot fatigue only if the price is right,” IPA President Robert Travis said Dec. 11. The IPA represents pilots at United Parcel Service ().
Travis also asserts the FAA’s new analysis is “flawed, just like its original analysis.”
The IPA and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have argued that the estimated benefits for all-cargo operations should take into account factors such as the potential for a cargo carrier accident to kill more people other than the crew operating the plane and damage more property other than the aircraft and its cargo. In its response to the new FAA analysis, ALPA also reiterated its belief that cargo-only operations should not be viewed in isolation.
“Because cargo aircraft do not carry passengers, it’s not surprising that the cost outweighs the benefit, yet cargo aircraft share the skies and airports with airlines conducting passenger operations,” ALPA said in a Dec. 11 statement. “ALPA firmly believes that there is no price tag on the safety of our skies.”
Absent an unlikely FAA reversal, the battle over the cargo-carrier exclusion will move back to the court and Congress. In its statement, ALPA specifically mentioned the Safe Skies Act, which departing Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in May and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the Senate in June. The bill has 43 co-sponsors in the House and five in the Senate.
IPA is supporting that legislation, too, but also carrying on a fight in court. Its challenge to the FAA’s decision in federal court is pending. When the FAA told the court in May that it had discovered errors in its original cost/benefit analysis and needed time to complete a new evaluation, the judge agreed to suspend the case until that is accomplished.
Technically, the FAA still is not done; the new analysis is open for public comment until mid-February. But there is little reason to believe that the comment period will make much difference. In a filing that will appear in the Federal Register on Dec. 12, the FAA says the new analysis “provides greater justification for the exclusion of cargo operations from the final rule.”
The FAA says it is seeking comments on whether the law mandating new crew rest rules for U.S. airlines even permit the FAA to consider a cost/benefit analysis, but also makes it clear that the FAA believes it does.