FAA Pledges To Fight Pilot Fatigue

Before the Colgan Air crash outside Buffalo in February, CBS News Correspondent Nancy Cordes reports that the National Transportation Safety Board was warning airlines about the dangers of fatigue - especially at regional airlines where lower paid, often less experienced pilots fly heavier schedules.

"Without a doubt, the single largest thing that makes it difficult to get enough rest is that they fly us very hard," says Captain David Ryter who's flown for a regional airline for 10 years.

Ryter tells Cordes, "What I've felt in terms of fatigue is coming in on the last flight of my sequence and feeling slow, feeling not very sharp."

The NTSB found that fatigue played a role in at least 250 airline accident deaths over the last 15 years.

Including:
  • October 19, 2004, the pilots were at the end of a 15 hour work day on when an American Connection Jetstream crashed.

  • February 18, 2007, the pilot of the Delta Connection crash in Cleveland was suffering from insomnia.

  • April 12, 2007, the Northwest Airlink flight crew was on its 6th leg of the day when it crashed in Michigan.
In the case of Colgan Air, the pilot had slept in the crew room the night before the flight.

Jeff Skiles was co-pilot of US Airways flight 1549, the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson."

He tells Nancy Cordes, "We weren't fatigued. We were able to react very quickly."

His union is pushing Congress to reduce the number of consecutive duty hours that airlines can schedule pilots from 16 to 12.

Skiles asks, "Do you really wanna be flying with a pilot who's on that 15th or 16th hour of duty shooting an approach at night in bad weather. When clearly he's going to be tired?"

Randy Babbitt, the FAA's new administrator, today pledged to change pilot rest regulations.

"We're gonna have a tough decision to make and i don't mind making it," he tells Cordes.

But he has his work cut out for him. Due in part to pressure from airlines, the rules have gone unchanged since the 1940s.
  • Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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