Lax rules for all-cargo airlines pose safety risk for crew

CREW of all-cargo airlines face comparatively greater safety risks than those employed on passenger aircraft due to less strict regulations

22 July 2019 - 19:00

CREW of all-cargo airlines face comparatively greater safety risks than those employed on passenger aircraft due to less strict regulations.

Testifying before the US House Transportation subcommittee on aviation, Air Line Pilots Association president Joe DePete said that many of the safety and security layers that are in place to protect the passenger airline industry are missing from regulations governing all-cargo airlines operated by companies such as FedEx, UPS and Atlas Air, reported New York's FreightWaves.

He explained that after fatigue was identified as a contributing factor in the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, New York in 2009, updated rules that were introduced in 2014 were developed to cover all pilots, however, the cargo sector was 'carved out' of the regulations at the eleventh hour.

'They eliminated cargo from the rule based on an ineffective cost-benefit analysis that showed it would cost the industry about US$500 million with only a $31 million benefit,' Mr DePete was quoted as saying.

He also warned of a safety gap within Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) regulations governing emergency response. Since all-cargo operations are exempted from the regulations, airports need not staff rescue and fire-fighting personnel during operations of all-cargo aircraft.

'There is a lack of proper ARFF equipment needed to fight all-cargo aircraft fires at some airports, including nozzle tips designed for penetrating cargo airliner hulls,' Mr DePete testified.

Furthermore, he said that the cargo exemption from the regulation 'interferes with fire departments' ability to get the resources they need for staffing, equipment, training and developing strategies for cargo-specific events,' including fires involving chemicals and radioactive materials.

Mr DePete also demanded a rule mandating reinforced flight deck doors for all-cargo aircraft, which were required to be installed on existing all-cargo airliners having cockpit doors after September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

'A significant number of all-cargo airliners are still operated without the benefits of hardened flight deck doors, leaving them without a means of adequately separating the flight crew from personnel riding aft of the bulkhead, and potential cargo-hold stowaways,' Mr DePete said.

The potential for a major security breach is heightened given that all-cargo airliners often carry third-party, non-crew personnel such as couriers and animal handlers who aren't subject to the thorough background checks required of other airline employees.

'These animal handlers carry strong sedatives and syringes that can be used on the animals during flight,' according to Mr DePete. 'There is a significant concern by our members that these improperly vetted individuals can use these sedatives or otherwise take hostile actions against the flight crew absent the protections of a primary door.'


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