The US FAA has denied a request by the Air Transport Association, four other airline advocacy groups and at least two airlines to extend the comment period by as much as 180 days on a new proposed rule to alter flight duty and rest regulations to combat fatigue.
"In 2009, the FAA established the Flight and Duty Time Limitations and Rest Requirements aviation rulemaking committee (ARC)," the FAA states in a notice to be published tomorrow. "The ARC provided a forum for the aviation industry to give extensive input on revising current flight and duty time limitations regulations. Therefore the FAA does not believe it is necessary to extend the comment period."
Among other provisions, the proposed rule, developed with guidance from ARC, gives pilots the right to decline an assignment if they feel fatigued, increases to nine hours from eight hours the rest time that must be taken before arriving for duty to duty by one hour to nine hours and introduces different fatigue management requirements based on time-of-day, number of scheduled segments, flight types, time zones and likelihood that a pilot is able to sleep.
In addition to the ARC, the FAA says the recently passed airline safety and FAA extension act of 2010, mandates that the agency issue a final rule on pilot fatigue by 1 August 2011. "To help ensure we meet this deadline, the FAA must receive comments to its proposed rule by 15 November 2010."
The FAA says it will "consider comments filed late if it is possible to do so without incurring expense or delay".
Some pilot groups have come out in opposition to certain elements of the rule. The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA), whose members include American, Southwest and UPS and US Airways, says it has "exhaustively analysed the NPRM [notice of proposed rulemaking] and feel the solutions proposed by the FAA often address industry economic concern issues to the exclusion of safety concerns".
UPS, one of the airlines asking for more time to submit comments, notes that carriers are required to submit a fatigue risk management plan to the FAA by 30 October, taking "time and resources away from developing comments" to the proposed rule.