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Pilot Fatigue Can Cause Florida Airplane Accidents

Much has been written about drowsy drivers who can cause Florida car accidents and truck accidents. However, it is not only drivers who can be dangerous when driving tired. Airline pilots, too, can easily cause accidents when they do not have adequate rest to do their jobs well. In many reports and studies, federal airplane accident experts have targeted pilot fatigue as a cause of many airplane accidents.

Airplane accidents are often attributed to pilot error but official investigators have often targeted fatigue, long hours, training issues, and working conditions as potential problems which lead to pilot error. Even common sense tells us that a tired pilot can be more dangerous than a pilot who is well trained and well rested. However, while truck drivers face strict regulations regarding hours of service and rest periods, pilots have traditionally not faced similar rules. Under current rules, pilots need to take eight hours off duty each day, but this can involve eating, running errands, and other tasks – not necessarily resting. As well, pilots can work up to 16 hours in a row on overnight flights, legally, and can have longer workdays when flying airplanes without passengers.

The Department of Transportation has made a suggestion which would impose such rules. The proposed regulation changes would mandate shorter on-duty hours, required rest periods, and limits on flight hours. The proposed changes would mean that pilot rest periods would increase to nine hours and would only start when the pilot reached home or a hotel (so that the commute would not be considered part of the rest).

As well, the proposed changes would require that pilots get at lead eight hours of sleep during their rest period. Pilots would be able to spend no more than 13 hours of on-duty time each day, including stopovers, flight checks, and all related activities. As well, pilots who make many landings and takeoffs or who fly overnight would be limited to 9 hours on duty. Pilots who feel that they are too fatigued to fly safely would be protected by the new regulations, which allows pilots to turn down flights when they are tired, without allowing the airline to reprimand the pilots for such decisions.

It is possible that a decision about the proposed changes will be made in the summer or fall of 2011. However, critics note that the rules do not address some issues which are unique to pilots. For example, pilots often overnight in places other than their home city in order to meet scheduling requirements or commute long distances to get home. This pressure can also lead to problems getting adequate rest but is not addressed in the proposed regulation changes.


If you or a loved one have been injured in a Florida airplane accident, contact the Flaxman Law Group. With offices in Miami, Homestead, and Hollywood, the Flaxman Law Group has already helped thousands of personal injury victims in the South Florida area. Call today to arrange a free initial consultation to discuss your case and to meet our legal team.