Commentary: New pilot fatigue rules not enough

On Wednesday, the federal government put out new rules to make sure commercial airline pilots get enough rest between shifts. Pilot fatigue can be deadly.

CBS News aviation expert Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger spoke with CBS News anchor Scott Pelley about the sometimes fatal consequences of pilots not getting enough rest.

Pelley: How pervasive of a problem is fatigue in the cockpit?

Sullenberger: It's endemic. It happens in every part of the industry every day. Of course we work very hard to prevent it, but it's something that's inherent of being human. And solving the fatigue problem has been on the National Transportation Safety Board's most-wanted list of improvements for over two decades.

Pelley: do these rules take care of the problem?

Sullenberger: It's a good first step, but it's the beginning of the journey, not the end of it. There's still a lot of work to be done. While this is much better than the status quo, it doesn't go the full distance.

Pelley: What will this mean for pilots going forward?

Sullenberger: Within two years when this rule is finally fully implemented, pilots and their passengers will have greater confidence that pilots will have the ability to get a good night's rest before their duty periods.

Pelley: Why would an airline want to schedule their pilots in a way that would make them fatigued?

Sullenberger: You have to understand what an intensely competitive business this is, and how closely all of these carriers must watch their costs. What we have to understand is even administrative decisions, certainly budget decisions, have safety implications. We have to look at this as system safety approach at which fatigue is an important point.

Pelley: You say that this is a good first step. What else should be done?

Sullenberger: Well, we still haven't achieved one level of safety: They have exempted all the cargo carriers from having to comply with these rules. There is a provision that would allow the non-scheduled carriers which carry 90-percent of our troop members to and from overseas to apply for a waiver from these rules. So, we're not there yet. There's much work to be done.