FAA Administrator Calls For Commitment to Regional Airline Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt today announced an expedited review of flight and rest rules and called on U.S. airlines and unions to respond, by July 31, with specific commitments to strengthen safety at regional and major airlines by insisting that airlines obtain all available FAA pilot records, among other actions.

On June 15, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Babbitt met with airline safety executives and pilot unions to strategize on how best to reduce risk at regional airlines while promoting best practices from major airlines.

"We know that the airline industry is committed to operate at the highest level of safety," Babbitt said. "Now is the time to push these initiatives forward."

The FAA is making pilot fatigue a high priority and will work rapidly to develop and implement a new flight time and rest rule based on fatigue science and a review of international approaches to the issue. By July 15, the agency will establish an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) — including FAA, labor and industry representatives — that will be charged with developing recommendations for an FAA rule by September 1.

Also by July 15, FAA inspectors will complete a focused review of airline procedures for identifying and tracking pilots who fail evaluations or demonstrate a repetitive need for additional training. Inspectors will conduct additional inspections to validate that the airline’s training and qualification programs meet regulatory standards in accordance with FAA guidance materials.

In a letter dated June 24, Babbitt urged all air carriers to immediately adopt a policy to ensure that their pilot applicants release any records held by the FAA to the hiring air carrier while the agency works with Congress to update the current Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996. Further, the FAA expects all carriers who do not currently have Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and Aviation Safety Action Programs in place to do so.

Beginning next month, the FAA and industry will hold at least 10 regional safety forums throughout the nation to open a dialogue with as many airlines as possible, solidifying commitments to the actions identified in the Call to Action meeting, and to discuss additional best practices.

The FAA expects airlines that have contractual relationships with regional feeder companies to develop specific programs to share safety data and ensure that their partner airlines mirror their most effective safety practices.

"We will work closely with Congress on all of these actions and will provide any necessary technical assistance," Babbitt said.

Earlier this year, the FAA proposed upgraded training standards for pilots, flight attendants and dispatchers. The proposal is the most comprehensive upgrade in FAA training requirements in 20 years and incorporates best industry practices. The rule aims to enhance traditional training programs by requiring additional simulator recurrent training, special hazard training, and additional training and practice in the use of Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles, as examples. The comment period closes August 10 and the FAA expects to promptly develop a final rule.