Amid fierce opposition from charter and cargo airlines, as well as alarms raised by Pentagon officials, the Obama administration has delayed new safety rules aimed at preventing airline pilots from becoming so exhausted that they make dangerous mistakes.
The Federal Aviation Administration was supposed to have final rules in place by Aug. 1 under a law passed by Congress last year in response to a 2009 regional airline crash in western New York that killed 50 people, including the pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow of Lutz.
The FAA proposed new rules last year designed to address long-standing concerns that pilot fatigue contributes to errors that cause accidents. They would reshape decades-old regulations governing how many hours a pilot can be on duty or at the controls of a plane, to take into account the latest scientific understanding of how fatigue slows human reflexes and erodes judgment.
Charter airlines are demanding to be exempted from the new rules. Charter, also called nonscheduled, airlines not only fly tourists and sports teams, they provide the planes and pilots for thousands of military flights every year. Civilian airlines transport more than 90 percent of U.S. troops and 40 percent of military cargo around the globe under contracts with the Pentagon. The trips are frequently long, usually at night and often to danger spots such as Afghanistan.