Flying Magazine published an article by Stephen Pope, Fighting Pilot Fatigue: New Views on Staying Alert.The article looks at the long history of fatigue-related accidents, and the insights collected in recent years.
The article refers to the Colgan 3407 accident in Buffalo on 2/12/09, as well as the crash of a Beech Baron in Teterboro at 3:05AM on 8/21/2009. Fifty died in Buffalo, in an accident that put HUGE political pressure on FAA about many commercial aviation issues:
- FAA’s ongoing refusal to resolve pilot fatigue risks,
- the apparent lower quality assurance standards at commuter/feeder airlines,
- common long-distance commutes by underpaid pilots,
- and the deceptive sales of tickets by major carriers, but for flights flown by commuter/feeder airline subcontractors.
Both accidents were fatigue-related, but in a decision that reveals how NTSB can be pressured to help FAA accommodate the financial interests of the airlines, the actual reports were drafted to direct attention at other, non-fatigue issues. This finally caused a minor rebellion by two NTSB members in 2011, when the Teterboro [KTEB] crash report was finalized. Both Chair Deborah Hersman and member Mark Rosekind submitted dissenting opinions. “Despite substantial indications of fatigue effects,” Rosekind wrote in his dissenting brief on the Teterboro crash, “the present accident report fails to acknowledge fatigue’s role in the accident. Based on the factors identified, fatigue was a likely contributory cause.”
In the years since, some minor rule changes have been implemented, but they exclude the sector of pilots most susceptible to fatigue issues: cargo pilots, who commonly work overnight shifts. One such example was the UPS Flight 1354 crash at Birmingham, AL on 8/14/13, which killed two.
So, that’s some of the background. Here are three short excerpts from an article well worth studying, about an aviation risk FAA still needs to address…