Secretary Ray LaHood
--Remarks as Prepared--
Unveiling of Pilot Fatigue Rule
United States Department of Transportation
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Good morning, everyone. Happy holidays. Thank you for joining us as we announce and celebrate a landmark safety achievement -- a new rule, which guarantees that commercial pilots have the opportunity to get proper rest before entering the cockpit -- a measure that has been a quarter-century in the making.
My single worst day in this job was February 12, 2009, when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed outside Buffalo. During the days and weeks that followed, I met with the families of the 49 passengers and crew on board. And I gave them my word that we would redouble our commitment to aviation safety –- in collaboration with both America’s major air-carriers and their regional partners.
Among other immediate steps, we issued a call to action in the aviation community. We held dozens of safety forums in cities across the country. The airlines took a number of actions on their own initiative. We’re grateful for that. Last September, we proposed a major new safety rule that deals with the longstanding challenge of pilot fatigue. And, today, we’re unveiling our final rule -– which has been a long time coming.
Here are the facts. This new rule will afford pilots the opportunity to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep before a flight. It will place new limits on the numbers of hours a pilot can fly weekly and monthly. It will ensure that pilots have a greater number of consecutive hours off duty every week. It will provide airlines with greater flexibility to adjust scheduling. And if a pilot does feel too fatigued to fly, this new rule gives them the ability to stand up and say so. In fact, it’s now that pilot’s responsibility to inform his or her carrier.
Look, here at the Department of Transportation, our fundamental mission is to help Americans move safely from one place to another. Safety is our number one priority.
What’s more, the American people have entrusted us with the solemn obligation of preventing accidents. Our charge, above all else, is to save lives.
As long as President Obama and I are on the job, we will never take the American people’s trust lightly -- or their safety for granted. That’s what this rule is all about.
America’s skies are the safest they’ve ever been. But they must be safer. And we will never let up in our fight to make sure passengers can get where they’re going -- on time, with the respect to which they’re entitled, and, most importantly, as safely as humanly possible.
So, let me close on a personal note. I am deeply grateful to the families of Flight 3407 for their unrelenting courage in the aftermath of tragedy; for their unbelievable advocacy and leadership; and for turning unimaginable heartbreak into a powerful commitment to save the lives of others. They pushed us to make the progress that we mark today. But they -- and their stories -- remind us that we have much more work ahead of us. And, together, we will get the job done for the traveling public.
With that, let me turn over the podium to FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta -- who’s doing an outstanding job --and who will delve into the details.
This is a big day. Thank you, all, for being here.