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Crew Fatigue Takes Center Stage

There has been a lot of talk about flight crew fatigue lately, and it looks like the discussion is ramping up quickly. I imagine we're going to see this coming to a head soon, and it will probably result in regulatory changes. That's good for flight crews and probably for safety, but it will probably end up increasing airline costs. Seems like a worthy trade off to me, if it's done right.

A couple of crew fatigue events have really catapulted this issue into the spotlight. First, you may remember the go! pilots who fell asleep on their morning flight from Honolulu to Hilo. The probable cause was issued yesterday (via WSJ) , and as expected, fatigue played a part:

. . . the day of the incident was the third consecutive day that both pilots started duty at 0540. This likely caused the pilots to receive less daily sleep than is needed to sustain optimal alertness and resulted in an accumulation of sleep debt and increased levels of daytime fatigue.
Then, of course, there was the Colgan Air accident in Buffalo where at least one pilot was sick and both were likely fatigued. This has caused the feds to start looking harder at the rules that are out there.

We're at the point now where we see a lot of ideas thrown around, some good and some not. You can be sure that the airlines are making their stances known. While it's likely that nobody will get exactly what they want, my guess is that something will be changing. It might be shorter on-duty periods, commuter requirements, etc. But we'll just have to watch and see where it ends up.

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