The one thing every passenger rightly expects from an airline flight is a pilot who has had enough rest and break time to do the best job possible guiding the aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s new rules ensuring that pilots fly shorter shifts and have longer periods of down time are welcome and overdue. They are touted as the most sweeping changes in pilot rules in decades. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says they are science-based and raise the safety bar.

More, however, can be done to address cumulative fatigue.

At the very least, common sense says the FAA should do its part to keep exhausted pilots out of the cockpit.

While the National Transportation Safety Board cited other factors as the cause of the crash of a 2009 commuter airline flight near Buffalo that killed 50 people, fatigue was a significant contributing cause. Pilots were heard in the cockpit yawning.

It is likely they did not get enough rest the night before. For example, the co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw had traveled all night from Seattle to her job on the East Coast.

Under the new rules, flight times will be restricted to eight or nine hours depending on the start time and number of flights flown.

The FAA took its time developing the new regulations. They will be phased in slowly — too slowly — during the next two years. It’s the FAA’s job to stay current on the science and keep the skies safe.

— The Seattle Times, Dec. 27

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