House FAA Reauthorization bill targets pilot training and fatigue

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Colgan Air's fatal Bombardier Q400 crash influenced FAA Reauthorization legislation approved today by the US House of Reprsentatives.

The House FAA funding bill contains provisions pertaining to pilot fatigue, pilot training and certification programmes-issues highlighted last week during National Transportation Safety Board hearings that examined circumstances surrounding the accident.

A Colgan Bombardier Q400 aircraft on 12 February enroute from Newark to Buffalo stalled and went out of control during an instrument landing system approach to Buffalo Niagara International airport.

Information that surfaced during the hearing indicated Colgan pilots ignored sterile cockpit rules requiring pilots to refrain from non-essential activities during critical phases of flight.

As a result, the House bill requires the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study commercial airline pilot training and certification programmes. GAO must submit their report to Congress within 12 months of starting the study.

Another component requires FAA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on pilot fatigue. The agency must update its regulations with regard to flight-time limitations and rest requirements for pilots based on study findings where appropriate.

Potential concerns about fatigue emerged during the hearing as both the captain and first officer commuted to Colgan's hub at New York Newark Liberty International airport. The captain left Tampa, Florida for Newark on 9 February while the first officer took a non-direct, red-eye flight from Seattle to Newark, arriving on 12 February.

While Colgan rules prohibit sleeping in crew rooms, the captain had been seen sleeping in that area. He also logged onto a computer system at 3 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on the day of the accident.

Crash-related elements contained in the House FAA funding bill must be included in the forthcoming Senate version to eventually become law.

The Senate is expected to introduce its FAA legislation next month, and plans to find time for a floor vote by August, a Senate aide tells ATI.