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October 23, 2006

Fly The Sleepy Skies

In your scary story of the day, JetBlue is being reprimanded by the FAA for making lab rats out of unsuspecting passengers. Currently, the FAA bars pilots from shifts longer than eight hours. JetBlue, hoping to upend the consensus that such lengths decrease alertness and mental acuity, began outfitting certain pilots with devices meant to determine alertness, and having them fly 10 or 11 hour shifts at a time. While piloting planes full of people. Doesn't sound too bad, but if the ticket counter had informed the passengers that the pilot was undergoing tests to see whether an extended workday would wear him out and degrade his fitness, there'd have likely been quite a few passengers waiting for that next flight.

October 23, 2006 | Permalink


I think this is a case of "hyped to sound worse than it really was." JetBluie followed normal procedure of having an extra pilot available to relieve the other two if needed; but they never switched in so that a (voluntary) test could be run to see how fatigued pilots become. At the very least, it would seem worth waiting for the test results, but if not, this sounds like CYA on the part of the national FAA, given that it is routine for airlines to deal with their regional office.

I'm always amazed at how nervous people get about flying. It's really very very safe. Really. And I love to fly. I trust airlines and pilots to be able to make these decisions while keeping passenger safety foremost. It's air traffic controllers that worry me, and no one seems to want to deal with that.

Posted by: weboy | Oct 23, 2006 12:00:08 PM

I love to fly.

Short legs, huh?

Posted by: Matt Weiner | Oct 23, 2006 3:12:20 PM

I can't see the WSJ article because I'm not a subscriber, but if the case is as you describe, it seems pretty open and shut that JetBlue violated FAA regulations. weboy, it would be a terrible precedent to allow airlines to experiment with FAA regulations on their own initiatives Whether or not JetBlue notified passengers seems to me irrelevant. Do I get to "experiment" with BAC limits to upend the conventional wisdom on how drunk I can be and still drive safely?

Posted by: Antid Oto | Oct 23, 2006 4:20:37 PM

Antid - JetBlue got approval from the New York Regional FAA office - the office they normally deal with - to evaluate whether a longer shift for pilots might work (the idea is that it would allow cross country flying pilots to turn around and fly back, sleep in their own beds rather than in a different time zone, and be more restful than a disorienting night someplace else). It would be a violation of FAA regulations, without a waiver from the FAA. Which they got - now the DC headquarters is saying the NY office should never have approved it, but no one - repeat, no one - told JetBlue that such a process was required. A third pilot flew on the flights as has always been the case, but simply didn't switch in. And nothing happened. And the results of the tests still need to be released. Is there reason to be concerned? Sure - and the Pilots Union brought up that they were about the implications... one can certainly see an AA or a Delta trying to take bad advantage of a change, and really risking safety. But still, this is just not the scandal the WSJ tries to drum it up to be.

And yes, I do still love to fly. In planes. :)

Posted by: weboy | Oct 23, 2006 6:53:24 PM

JetBlue got approval from the New York Regional FAA office - the office they normally deal with

Yeah, that's a pretty important detail. Never mind, then.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Oct 23, 2006 8:41:45 PM

Hi! Have a nice day.

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