WICHITA, Kan. -
New rules kick in Saturday that may affect your future flights.
The U.S. Transportation Secretary and Federal Aviation Administration announced the new rule in December of 2011, giving airlines two years to comply.
The rules deal with pilot scheduling, limiting hours in order to give them a better opportunity to rest.
Calvin Kissick is a retired airline pilot that flew for 45 years. He thinks the new laws were a long time coming.
"I'm sure many people have driven or done their jobs fatigued and you probably got by with it," said Kissick. "Pilots have too, but hopefully an accident isn't caused by that and it can happen."
That's what led to the rules in the first place. A crash back in 2009 where 49 people aboard Colgan Air flight 3407 died when the plane crashed into a home. One person inside that home was also killed. The NTSB later filed a report that said the pilots were enable to respond properly to a stall warning which led to the fatal crash.
The FAA said that's what launched "an aggressive effort to take advantage of the latest research on fatigue to create a new pilot flight, duty and rest proposal."
In it, a pilot must have a minimum of 10 hours to rest. That's a two hour increase over the old rules. In those 10 hours, the pilot must be able to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
"For a long time once you parked the plane your "duty day" ended," said Kissick. "You had to be back at work 10 hours later. Within that 10 hours you had to leave the airport, go to the hotel, hope that transportation was there to take you there, check in, quickly get a ride back in the morning, hope traffic wasn't too bad, then go through security. That rule was modified for us to say you have to have 8 hours at the hotel, which was an improvement."
The rules also state that a pilot must "affirmatively state his or her fitness for duty." Something Kissick said was strongly encouraged when he was flying.
"If you felt you were fatigued and it happens occasionally, say you had a baby at home you were up with all night, you could simply say, 'I am too tired and I feel it unsafe for me to be flying this morning," he said. "I don't think any company is going to disagree with you. It can be disruptive, but safety is always first."
Another part of the new rule requires that pilots have at least 30 consecutive hours off work on a weekly basis, a 25% increase over the old rules. It also only allots pilots 8-9 hours of flying time, depending on the start time of the pilot's "flight duty period."
But the new increased safety comes at a cost.
"Crew members will welcome it," said Kissick. "But companies, it will affect the bottom line and consumers may see a slight increase in what they pay for fares."
Not to mention the possibility of flight delays.
"What it will ultimately mean, they're not going to get as many hours out of crew members, so they're going to have to have more crew members," he said. "Should bad weather pop up expectantly and the crew would normally just wait two hours for the weather to go by, they may not be able to do that with the new rules."
He said most the time airlines will be able to schedule around the new rules, but it will affect airlines the most during unexpected events like weather and mechanical problems.
Even so, many airline passengers say the added safety is worth it.
"I think it's a good thing," said Mike Robinson, a long time truck driver waiting for his flight out of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. "Having made a living driving a truck, we've had to deal with that and with the changed they've made it's become a lot safer. If you got a whole plane full of people behind you, you can't be too safe."
"I would definitely rather have a more rested pilot," said Allison Rudeen. "I can imagine people who travel for business and need to be at a certain place may be more frustrated by the delays. But you'll have a more rested pilot so you're probably safer."
For the complete FAA release on the new rules click here.