The current FAA rules concerning duty and rest were designed well before I was born....not long after my parents were born. They are outdated.
There are changes on the horizon. The pilots of Colgan 3407 will not have died in vain.
The new rules (a PDF can be seen here a news story here) are a step forward in many ways...but not perfect.
One thing I don't like about the current rules is the concept of reduced rest. Normal rest is 9 hours. Airlines can take rest down to 8 hours as long as they give the crews compensatory rest of at least 10 hours the next rest period. When the FAA put the idea of reduced rest into effect, it was designed to be used on the rare occasion that a flight was running late. Rather than delay the morning "kick off" flight, the crew could be taken down to 8 hours to help get the morning flight out on time. Sound great right? Well greedy airlines saw the rule in a different light. They SCHEDULED reduced rest.
There are quite a few trips where reduced rest is the "norm". Take for example a flight that arrives at 9:00 PM and goes back out at 6:25 AM.
The crew goes off duty and enters rest at 9:15PM. Chances are very high that at 9:15PM the crew is still on the plane or at best walking through the airport. If they are lucky the hotel van is outside waiting. At best they arrive at the hotel at 9:35PM. Most hotels have the keys already assigned and crews simply sign in and take a key. If they are tired and prepared for sleep (after working a legal (safe?) 14 hour work day they fall asleep at 10PM. The van time the next morning is set for 5:25AM. In order to get ready and eat breakfast I would wake up at 4:45AM. Thus if at best I get 6 hours 45 minutes of sleep (again only if I am dog tired and fall asleep right away). The ride to the airport is still considered rest. The crew goes back on duty at 5:40AM as they enter the airport.
Under current FAA rules they can fly all the way until 8:25PM.....on that "8 hours" rest. Legal yes....safe?
The rules would make normal rest 10 hours and reduced rest 9 hours. Better. I don't like the chart concerning how many hours per day we can fly though....they increased! Right now I can fly 8 hours per day. Under the proposed rules it goes up to 11! Thankfully the maximum duty day is no longer 16 hours. I've worked a 16 hour duty day....tired doesn't even begin to described how I felt.
Remember Colgan 3407