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Why We Regulate

Filed under: National Politics
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Anyone else think it’s ridiculous that we need congressional legislation to force airlines to give their airline pilots enough rest so as to, for instance, not be too tired safely to fly a plane full of people?

When private industry refuses to police itself, and treats labor more as a commodity than a human being, government has to step in to regulate it.

Oh, and FedEx and UPS are excluded from the law, and their pilots aren’t thrilled with that.

Will this prevent crashes? Nope. Will it hopefully eliminate one of the risk factors that lead to pilot-error crashes? Yep.


  • Max

    It is absurd, particularly when matters concerning the safety of human life are involved. How we’ve been reduced to a point where these measures must be enacted is a telling indictment of the argument about how the regulatory-free market ethos provides all.

  • Jesse

    A more interesting question to me is why some industries and some regulatory bodies are able to function happily and safely without the hammer of the federal government (Underwriters’ Labs for example), and others are not.

  • 3 years for the regulations and another 2 years to implement. The regulators do such a marvelous job. I feel much safer knowing pilots can’t work longer than 14 hours at a time. There FAA concluded there was no indication of fatigue as a factor in the crash of Flight 3407. This is just another shield for private industry to hide behind in court when they do screw up. The collusion between the regulators and the regulatees continues.

    • Alan Bedenko

      From the FAA executive summary of its final report on the investigation into the causes of the crash of Flight 3407:

      On February 12, 2009, about 2217 eastern standard time, a Colgan Air, Inc., Bombardier DHC-8-400, N200WQ, operating as Continental Connection flight 3407, was on an instrument approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, Buffalo, New York, when it crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, New York, about 5 nautical miles northeast of the airport. The 2 pilots, 2 flight attendants, and 45 passengers aboard the airplane were killed, one person on the ground was killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. The flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.

      The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the captain’s inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. Contributing to the accident were (1) the flight crew’s failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the lowspeed cue, (2) the flight crew’s failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, (3) the captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight, and (4) Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.

      The safety issues discussed in this report focus on strategies to prevent flight crew monitoring failures, pilot professionalism, fatigue, remedial training, pilot training records, airspeed selection procedures, stall training, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight, flight operational quality assurance programs, use of personal portable electronic devices on the flight deck, the FAA’s use of safety alerts for operators to transmit safety-critical information, and weather information provided to pilots. Safety recommendations concerning these issues are addressed to the FAA.

      The families have pushed for the new rules on fatigue because neither of the Flight 3407 pilots had a full night of bed rest before the crash, which federal investigators blamed on pilot error.

      In fact, the Flight 3407 co-pilot flew on a connecting red-eye flight from her Seattle home to Newark, N.J., where Flight 3407 originated, the night before the doomed flight.

  • The concluding paragraph from the NTSB’s section on pilot fatigue:

    Because the effects of fatigue can exacerbate performance failures, its role in the pilots’ performance during the flight cannot be ruled out. The NTSB concludes that the pilots’ performance was likely impaired because of fatigue, but the extent of their impairment and the degree to which it contributed to the performance deficiencies that occurred during the flight cannot be conclusively determined.

    That’s a very long way from “no indication of fatigue as a factor”.

  • Quoting the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation –

    the research and accident data have shown that the errors made by the flight
    crewmembers, including their failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the position of the lowspeed
    cue, adhere to standard operating and sterile cockpit procedures, and respond
    appropriately to the stick shaker, have also been observed in other pilots who were not fatigued.
    It is important to note that, throughout the flight, the pilots were conversational and
    engaged. Neither pilot acted withdrawn or lethargic or made any statements about being tired or
    receiving inadequate sleep.240 Also, the pilots demonstrated good performance during the flight
    by following sterile cockpit procedures during the takeoff and initial climb. Other examples of
    good performance by the flight crew include (1) the first officer’s detection, during her review of
    the airplane’s logbooks, that a previous flight crew had not completed the 24-hour ice protection
    check (the captain had just completed the check); (2) the captain’s interruption of his own
    conversation to point out crossing traffic; and (3) his continuation of the approach briefing after
    it was interrupted 50 seconds earlier by an ATC call.

  • Mike,

    Nothing you’ve said backs up your statement “There [sic] FAA concluded there was no indication of fatigue as a factor in the crash of Flight 3407.” It wasn’t conclusively proven to be a factor, but it clearly was a factor.

    Their report said “The NTSB concludes that the pilots’ performance was likely impaired because of fatigue”.

    Clearly, they’re using hedging language because of a shortage of provable facts, not a complete lack of facts relating to fatigue.

  • I look forward to the Libertarian Paradise when I can choose my airline from an article in Consumer Reports that tells me that Airline X rates this well or that well for inflight food, baggage handling, passengers killed in fiery wrecks caused by sleepy ill-trained pilots, footroom in coach, quality of in-flight movies, et cetera!