leelaw
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WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sat Oct 21, 2006 3:47 pm

Airline Pushed FAA Limits
On Cockpit Time but Failed To Tell Passengers on Planes
By ANDY PASZTOR and SUSAN CAREY
October 21, 2006; Page A1

EMBARGOED! Last year, thousands of JetBlue Airways passengers became unwitting participants in a highly unusual test of pilot fatigue.

Without seeking approval from Federal Aviation Administration headquarters, consultants for JetBlue outfitted a small number of pilots with devices to measure alertness. Operating on a green light from lower-level FAA officials, management assigned the crews to work longer shifts in the cockpit -- as many as 10 to 11 hours a day -- than the eight hours the government allows. Their hope: Showing that pilots could safely fly far longer without exhibiting ill effects from fatigue.

The results of the test haven't yet been made public -- they are expected to be published by the end of the year -- and JetBlue executives say even they don't know the findings. But the experiment has landed JetBlue in hot water while fueling a fierce debate within the airline industry about how long pilots should be allowed to stay at the controls...

...FAA headquarters heard about the test from pilot-union officials and their supporters. When the head office "became aware that JetBlue operated some domestic flights outside the standard rules, we immediately investigated and took corrective action," said James Ballough, head of flight standards for the agency. Mr. Ballough says officials are "confident that JetBlue's pilots are flying to the FAA's rules" now.

Another high-ranking FAA policy maker expressed his displeasure more bluntly: "We don't allow experiments with passengers on board, period..."




http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116138760170199478.html

[Edited 2006-10-21 08:56:25]
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lightsaber
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot W

Sat Oct 21, 2006 4:06 pm

you negleted from the source:

Quote:
James Ballough, head of flight standards for the agency. Mr. Ballough says officials are "confident that JetBlue's pilots are flying to the FAA's rules" now.

So current flight safety is being assured, from other parts of the article, it sounds like vigorously.

Quote:
The spokeswoman says there were no in-flight emergencies during the test period, and safety was never compromised because a third pilot was always on board to take the controls if needed. The JetBlue pilots who participated in the experiment volunteered for the assignment.

One of three pilots... ok. It was improper to perform experiments with passangers onboard. There is a reason this sort of work is done with military pilots normally.

Quote:
JetBlue isn't unionized, but once preliminary information about the flights started leaking out, pilot union leaders were quick to react. Union supporters complained to FAA headquarters,

(snip)

Revised regulations could present JetBlue with economic advantages over carriers such as AMR Corp.'s American Airlines or UAL Corp.'s United Airlines. Those two carriers and other large airlines with long histories are constrained by union contracts sometimes calling for more-restrictive scheduling than what is allowed by the FAA.

I hope this isn't the unions trying to do it to a non-union. Reading the details of the ariticle, it notes how this testing was being done to change shifts in an attempt to improve pilot quality of life.

Quote:
But the agency closed its investigation without imposing any monetary fines on the carrier. Since then, FAA officials say headquarters has ordered closer scrutiny by inspectors of all JetBlue operations.

Closed investigation, no fine. Yes, Jetblue will be scrutinized. As someone who does aerospace R&D, we're very cautious about not involving passangers. So even though I am a B6 fan, it sounds like they crossed a line. However, they were doing it with FAA approval, although it sounds like at the wrong level. Having a 3rd pilot was sensible. But I do wonder how much of this is the unions trying to break in. Interesting that this news broke with the new ALPA president... Hmmm...  scratchchin  Since the tests were voluntary and done with the intent to try and improve pilot quality of life... I'm not thinking this will provoke B6 pilot unionization.

Will it create a little tempest in a teapot? Yes. Cest la vie.

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PITrules
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sat Oct 21, 2006 6:21 pm



Quote:
Without seeking approval from Federal Aviation Administration headquarters



Why would JB seek approval from FAA HQ when they have approval from their local office? Sounds like an internal FAA problem to me.



Quote:
Operating on a green light from lower-level FAA officials, management assigned the crews to work longer shifts in the cockpit -- as many as 10 to 11 hours a day -- than the eight hours the government allows



WSJ got it wrong - max shift per FAR Part 121 is 16 hours duty, not 8 hours.
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sat Oct 21, 2006 6:28 pm

Quoting PITrules (Reply 2):
WSJ got it wrong - max shift per FAR Part 121 is 16 hours duty, not 8 hours.

True, the Whitlow ruling does enforce a max DUTY of 16 hours; however, what JBU was trying to do was to fly over 8 hours of BLOCK time - in other words, have crews be able to fly JFK-LGB-JFK in a single duty period.
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sat Oct 21, 2006 6:41 pm

Quoting Dispatchguy (Reply 3):
however, what JBU was trying to do was to fly over 8 hours of BLOCK time - in other words, have crews be able to fly JFK-LGB-JFK in a single duty period.

I agree, but the transcon turns must still be completed within the 16 hour duty period.

JetBlue's point is this - What's the difference if a crew flies 6 legs totalling 8 hours flight time within a 16 hour duty period vs. flying 2 legs totalling 10 hours flight time within a 16 hour duty period?

Personally, my opinion is the FAA requirement of a 16 hour duty day is way too long. IMO It should be no more than 12 hours on duty. However, I don't have a problem of increasing the 8 hour flight time limitation if it can be completed within the (for example) 12 hour duty day.
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sat Oct 21, 2006 8:04 pm

Thankfully as a dispatcher, my scheduled max duty is 10 hours, but I can work to fatigue for reasons beyond the control of the carrier. I remember when I worked at a small 121 carrier, with only 5 dispatchers on staff, my afternoon relief called sick, and no one else was able to cover - everyone was either well out of the local area, or had just broken open a beer, so I worked the entire operational day. I told my director of SOC, that since the day was severe VFR, I'll work it, but if it was hard IFR, he'd be coming in and determining what to cancel. After about 13 our 14 hours on shift, my mind was mush.

Yeah, the WSJ graphic used the wrong term, for shifts leads the reader to believe that your 8 hour "shift" is all you work, and I do agree, I do think that 16 hours for domestic flying is way too long.
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:35 am

Quoting PITrules (Reply 2):
WSJ got it wrong - max shift per FAR Part 121 is 16 hours duty, not 8 hours.

Thank you for the information.

Quoting PITrules (Reply 4):

JetBlue's point is this - What's the difference if a crew flies 6 legs totalling 8 hours flight time within a 16 hour duty period vs. flying 2 legs totalling 10 hours flight time within a 16 hour duty period?

 checkmark  Modify the rule.

I do agree, a 16 hour duty day is too long. You need to chop a minimum of 3 hours off that. Although a 13 hour duty day would be... odd. Why three? 1 hour to get to work, 1 hour to get to the hotel/home, and one more hour in the morning to get ready/eat breakfast. (Crew should get at least one sit down meal...) But that is just my  twocents . I could see the reason for a 14 hour day too.

I've worked 17 hour shifts and that is just brutal. I was barely safe to be a manager; there is no way I could have operated machinery (much less piloted).

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flybyguy
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:49 am

I think longer duty days are the nature of the beast. With lower revenues and higher costs, airlines are forced to have their pilots fly longer to make a profit. Besides, FAA rules asside, it is up to the pilot in command to make the decision of wether he can fly or not. If he feels fatigued whether it be an 8 hour duty day or a 16 hour duty day then it is his call whether or not to fly or whether his first officer is fit to fly. We can't lay all the blame on airline companies for making pilots fly as much as they do... by regulation they are permitted to fly as long as they are physically able to (within regulated time limits) and it is finally the pilot's call whether he is safe to fly or not.
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turnit56N
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 2:06 am

Quoting Flybyguy (Reply 7):
Besides, FAA rules asside, it is up to the pilot in command to make the decision of wether he can fly or not. If he feels fatigued whether it be an 8 hour duty day or a 16 hour duty day then it is his call whether or not to fly or whether his first officer is fit to fly

This all sounds so good on paper, and in a university CRM course, or even an airline CRM course. And it's true. Unfortunately, the real world isn't always so cut and dry. In a lot of ways, being fatigued can be compared to being drunk. If you're either one you have an obligation to call in and say you can't fly. That doesn't mean you're not going to have to explain why you got into that situation. Obviously, being fatigued doesn't have the stigma of being drunk because you don't always have control over the former and you do over the latter. Also, pilots generally don't push the alcohol rules. On the other hand, it's tempting when you're fatigued to just say "Yes, we're dead tired but we only have one more leg and then we can go sleep. Let's just get it done." It's also impossible to prove that you're fatigued. The company is forced to take your word for it and they don't like it when they have to cancel or delay a flight just because a captain said "oh, I'm tired". Interestingly enough, the symptoms of being very fatigued are similar to being drunk. Reaction time, coordination and especially judgement are affected. Usually, when a pilot is very fatigued they are not able to objectively judge how capable they really are, just like being drunk or hypoxic. What's the difference between just being tired and being too tired to fly? When you're at that point, you're often too tired to realize it. Even if you know before the flight that you're tired, well.....knowing that you're going to have to explain yourself to the chief pilot when you don't have a reason besides "It's been a long day", and knowing that if you do one more leg the day will be over and you can all go to sleep....that's why pilots don't call in fatigued. I've seen surveys from different major US carriers where over half the surveyed pilots said they've flown fatigued, and yet it's very rare for pilots to call in fatigued. That tells us that system doesn't work.

I've had 16 hour duty days and they were incredibly tiring. I've flown more than eight hours in a day due to weather and didn't think twice about it. I'm ambivalent on flying more than eight hours in a day because I don't think that's as big of a deal as long as the duty day is shortened. If they shorten the duty day then I don't really have a problem with JetBlue wanting the crews to fly more than eight hours, but the 16 hour duty day should not be allowed. With all the evidence that current regulations are not giving pilots adequate rest, I do have trepidations about any attempt to extend flying or duty time.
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lowrider
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 2:39 am

Quoting Lightsaber (Reply 6):
You need to chop a minimum of 3 hours off that. Although a 13 hour duty day would be... odd. Why three? 1 hour to get to work, 1 hour to get to the hotel/home, and one more hour in the morning to get ready/eat breakfast. (Crew should get at least one sit down meal...) But that is just my . I could see the reason for a 14 hour day too.

The current FARs do not count "Transportation, local in nature" as a part of your duty time. Under current rules, that 13 hours would begin when you report for duty. Also, the FARs make no allowance for things such as meal breaks. Imagine being assigned a 15 hour duty day with no time scheduled to eat. If you are a few minutes late blocking out because one of the pilots had to use the bathroom, the delay still gets charged to the crew.

For JetBlue to involve passengers without thier knowledge or consent seems, to me, to be a breach of ethics and a violation of the first duty of the airline.
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flybyguy
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 2:46 am

Quoting Turnit56N (Reply 8):

Thanks for the info.  bigthumbsup 
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saab2000
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 2:51 am

We work 16 hour duty days not infrequently. This should not be allowed.

Don't let this discussion become one of union bashing. The rules that allow a 16 hour duty day are unsafe. Period. To imply that it is one union trying to strongarm another non-union group is absurd.

But the unions are correct in saying that pilot fatigue is a real and legitimate issue. JetBlue's attempt to go around the rules should not be tolerated.

BTW, 16 hours is from check-in until check-out. It does not involve transportation to and from the airport. I could check in a 7 AM and be legal to be operating the airplane until 10:59 PM.

Think that's safe? Think again.
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 2:57 am

Quoting Lowrider (Reply 9):
The current FARs do not count "Transportation, local in nature" as a part of your duty time. Under current rules, that 13 hours would begin when you report for duty.

I'm pretty sure that's what he meant. Right now it's 16 hours. He wants it cut to 13 hours so that in your 16 hour day, you have travel time and meal time, so it's still effectively 16 hours. Now it's more like an 18-19 hour day.
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FutureFO
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 5:54 am

Contractually with most airlines a duty is limited to 14 hours. Can be extended to 16 due WX or ATC.
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ltbewr
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 6:42 am

Shouldn't this 'fatigue test' have been done in similators? That would have eliminated the risk to passangers and probably have given suitable data. It sounds like the regional FAA official was trying to be nice to an airline, perhaps with some promises in return at a later date? I hope that wasn't true and this whole 'expirment' is investigated by the FAA or by the US Justice Dept.
 
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 6:51 am

summer traffic here in turkey has us flying 180 hour duty months and 110 flight hours....if you don't prepare with proper food and sleep, you're screwed, there's a difference between being tired from flying and being tired during the flight...
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AirWillie6475
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 8:15 am

Wait a minute, this is the stupidest thing I've read in a while. Is this a joke? They actualy found lab rats to volunteer to so the company can see if they can extend their duty time at the controls? What pilot group would allow this?
 
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:47 am

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 16):
What pilot group would allow this?

One without a Union.
 
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:07 am

Quoting FSPilot747 (Reply 17):
One without a Union.

Unbelievable, even Mesa isn't this low, well almost. Lowering duty time in exchange of higher flying duty is not a good thing. There is a difference between being in the terminal and being in a cockpit. The latter takes much more work.
 
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:28 am

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 16):
What pilot group would allow this?

Dude, it's called free will. Look into it...
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:57 am

Quoting LTBEWR (Reply 14):
Shouldn't this 'fatigue test' have been done in similators?

As good as simulators are, I don't believe that they can accurately represent the physiological (think "pressurisation") and psychological (think "you could end up dead") stresses that a pilot undergoes when flying for real.

It's a nice thought, but there are to many variables for such testing to be bullet-proof.

Quoting Ikramerica (Reply 19):
de, it's called free will. Look into it...

Really though. What sort of employee says, "Yes. Please work me like a dog for a pittance of a salary. I want to be part of your human experiment that may put my life and those of my pax at risk, knowing that the only people who will really profit are the shareholders and the directors."

I'll answer my own question; it's people who fly because they thought they'd get rich off it. Not because they love flying.

Sure, you'll earn more when you are paid by the hour, but what happens when the company expects you to do it as a matter of course? In principle, it becomes compulsory since refusal will restrict advancement. That is what happens after all. It's the old "give an inch and they'll take a mile" thing and I see it all the time.

Or maybe it would be better if pilots were more like truckers?
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Alias1024
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 11:22 am

While I agree that any extension to the maximum flight time should not be allowed, I can see why it was B6 pilots that were willing to do it. If they could fly out to the west coast and back in one duty day, it would lead to a bunch of schedules with 90 hours of flying and 21 days off. Sounds pretty tempting to me.

Too bad they didn't seem to think about the crappy schedules they could get bouncing up and down the east coast for 10 or 11 hours, in crappy weather on the fourth day of their trip. Personally I don't think it is safe, but I can almost understand the motivation for the pilots at B6.
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:02 pm

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 18):
Unbelievable, even Mesa isn't this low, well almost.

Come on, we're ALPA and AFA. What happens at Mesa happens to you, too.
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PITrules
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:02 pm

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 16):
They actualy found lab rats to volunteer to so the company can see if they can extend their duty time at the controls?

Duty time was never extended.

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 18):
Lowering duty time in exchange of higher flying duty is not a good thing. There is a difference between being in the terminal and being in a cockpit.

Speak for yourself, sitting in a terminal being bored and doing nothing for hours fatigues me.

Quoting FSPilot747 (Reply 17):
Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 16):
What pilot group would allow this?

One without a Union.

These test flights were done in the same manner as "flag" rules (flying more than eight hours with a relief pilot) flying. Most Unionized international carriers do this. If it is safe for international, why not domestic?

As stated, I would not be in favor of increasing flight time limits, but at least get the facts on the tests that were done. Only if there is a substantial decrease in duty time would the topic be worth investigating as far as I'm concerned.
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lincoln
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 12:27 pm

Quoting Turnit56N (Reply 8):
"Yes, we're dead tired but we only have one more leg and then we can go sleep. Let's just get it done."

Getthereitis gets people dead. As a passenger, I'd much rather my flight be delayed/cancelled than the risks associated with flying fatigued.

As a passenger, I did a trip that was roughly
Day 1: Wake up at 7:00 AM Eastern, do some work from home, drove to the airport and flew to New Orleans. Worked in New Orleans until 11:30 PM local (12:30 AM 'normal')...had lunch/dinner, and was in bed in the hotel by 1:30 AM local.
Day 2: Woke up at 7:00 AM local, worked until 2 PM, flew home via IAH, and home with luggage by 11:30 PM CLE time.
Day 3: Woke up at 6:30 AM, drove 4 hours to Dayton, worked until 7:30 PM, drove 4 hours back home, and in bed by Midnight.

And I'll tell you that my brain was complete mush by about 1/2 way through day 3. In all honesty I should have grabbed a hotel in Dayton (which the company would have paid for No Questions Asked), but I wanted to sleep in my own bed. By the time I decided that that wasn't the best idea, I was sufficiently removed from civilization that a hotel was no longer a viable option.

But since I was driving, not to mention by my self, had I decided that I was really too tired to go on, I had the luxary of pulling off the side of the road and napping if I had to. Pilots aren't so lucky.

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longhaulheavy
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 2:45 pm

More power to you pilots, man. I can't drive for more than 4 hours without falling asleep.
 
baw716
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot W

Sun Oct 22, 2006 3:50 pm

A 16 hour duty day is riduculous; it should be reduced to 12 hours, with the eight hour flying rule remaining firmly in effect. If there is one single group that must be given absolute consideration for rest, it is the airline pilot group, followed by cabin crew. It is not a union issue, it is a safety issue, period.

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turnit56N
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Sun Oct 22, 2006 5:56 pm

Quoting PITrules (Reply 23):
Speak for yourself, sitting in a terminal being bored and doing nothing for hours fatigues me.

Agree completely. I would much rather do a four hour flight than sit for four hours at an airport. Not just because of the money, but I'll actually be more tired at the end of the airport sit.

Quoting Lincoln (Reply 24):
Getthereitis gets people dead. As a passenger, I'd much rather my flight be delayed/cancelled than the risks associated with flying fatigued.

Well, yes. No arguement with what you say. Again, the problem is that this sounds so cut and dry when you're sitting in some CRM course or listening to a CFI paraphrase the AIM during a ground lesson. Unfortunately, when you're in the situation it's not easy to judge whether you're just tired or whether you're too tired to fly. That's why we have regulations regarding crew rest and duty time. The hard truth is that airline pilots fly fatigued every day. Most of them are probably just fine, some of them probably shouldn't be flying that last leg. It's a serious issue and all the studies show that current regulations allow pilots to fly schedules that guarantee they will not be adequated rested to fly. I'd have to see the results of the studies JetBlue did, but my gut feeling that if pilots were allowed to fly up to 10 hours but not over a 12 hour duty day we would be more rested and less tired.
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apodino
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RE: WSJ: Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue In Hot Water

Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:44 am

This story comes out not long after that report of the flight attendant being forced to work a trip fatigued from LGB-FLL, and then ended up getting fired for something that is elluding me. Low costs is a nice thing to provide to your passengers, but not at the expense of safety of the passengers, and as much as I hate to admit it, a lot of airlines are pushing that too close to the limit just to please the shareholders.

The FAA won't do anything until either something happens, or Mary Schiavo is put in charge of the agency either. And unfortunately the former is much more likely to happen than the latter.