Sleepy Pilots Want Trimmed Schedules

Penny-pinching means more flying, on FAA rules dating from '60s
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2008 10:11 AM CDT
Continental Airline pilots conduct informational picketing and hold a rally in Houston, June 11, 2008, to remind Continental management of their contractual agreements.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Airline pilots are seeing their flying hours approach the federally mandated limit, and many of them have had enough, the Wall Street Journal reports. Safety experts agree that the current regulations, in place since the 1960s, don't reflect current knowledge about the dangers of fatigue. But penny-pinching airlines keep pushing their pilots' limits.

From "micro sleep," when open-eyed people become unresponsive for several seconds or minutes, to forgetting routine tasks like extending wing flaps, the consequences of putting tired pilots in the air can be potentially deadly. This year, a flight from Honolulu overshot its destination of Hilo by 26 miles while air-traffic controllers tried for 18 minutes to wake its unresponsive pilots. (Read more pilot fatigue stories.)