Passengers on domestic US airlines are now at an increased risk of being crashed into by sleepy cargo pilots. Lawyers at the FAA used case law, negligence reasoning and other historically based legal records to reach a regulatory milestone, aligning with lawyers at large US based package express and airborne freight haulers. The FAA pointed out that so far, when cargo pilots have had fatal crashes, they have only killed themselves. But is the regulation a millstone around the necks of cargo pilots? Industry safety experts say the risk to the passenger flying public is very real. Fatigue caused human errors can lead to massive passenger casualties. Take for instance one of the worst commercial aviation passenger disasters in history. 583 people were killed when two heavily laden B747s collided in Tenerife in 1977. It is believed that some of the crew members who may have been on duty in excess of 15 hours, in my opinion, misunderstood ATC communications. The KLM captain was very near the end of his official duty day, but believed that if he could get airborne before the end of his duty day, that he could complete the flight to Amsterdam with his load of passengers. A good man, a man dedicated to his company, a man with a great record at the company as a captain, under the fatigue caused misconception that he had been cleared to take off, although he had not, began his takeoff roll, colliding just moments later with a Pan Am jet on a fog shrouded runway.
Now imagine hundreds of fatigued cargo pilots operating around the clock due to this FAA ruling. Imagine a sleepy cargo crew misunderstanding an ATC radio call and ramming 850,000 pounds of plane, cargo and fuel into your family in a passenger plane innocently waiting to takeoff, albeit by accident, while seated on a passenger jet, one tightly regulated by the FAA. One thing will be for sure. The lawyers from the FAA and the cargo industry will be saying, “We need to do something about this.”
So, we have a chance right now to “do something about this,” and we ought to do it before we witness another tragedy such as Tenerife. The FAA should let the law of the people speak for the people. After all, it is their safety that is really the first priority, is it not? Cargo carriers have prospered under FAA safety regulations, countering the claims by their lawyers that safety would cost them business losses. Check their financial records. Now check the FAA and NTSB accident records. In fact the records show that many if not most of the cargo crashes were the result of fatigue and other human factors, and not safety regulations. The ruinous losses of these accidents is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And these are fully documented losses of property and lives, they are not suppositions, arguments or cases put together in a law office.
This other “study” of potential business losses due to safety regulations is purely speculative, oppositional and entirely hypothetical. There doesn’t appear to be a shred of real evidence in the entire argument. So, I think that it is time that we base our decisions of safety, of life and death on reality, on data, on facts and on history and not on the unsubstantiated claims of lawyers, accountants and other business professionals.