The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Wednesday a new rule overhauling commercial passenger airline pilot scheduling, ensuring pilots have enough time to rest between flights.

However a day later cargo pilots with the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) have filed a Petition for Review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in order to challenge FAA's exclusion of their class of pilots from the final flight and duty time rule.

“The IPA seeks to have cargo operations included within the scope of the rule because of the safety benefits provided by the rule,” said IPA General Counsel William Trent. “IPA does not seek to delay implementation of these important safety benefits to passenger operations.”

The IPA represents 2,700 pilots flying for UPS.

“Giving air cargo carriers the choice to opt-in to new pilot rest rules makes as much sense as allowing truckers to 'opt-out' of drunk driving laws,” said Captain Robert Travis, President of the IPA. “To potentially allow fatigued cargo pilots to share the same skies with properly rested passenger pilots creates an unnecessary threat to public safety.”

In a statement announcing the new rule, the FAA noted that “covering cargo operators under the new rule would be too costly compared to the benefits generated in this portion of the industry.” 

“Some cargo airlines already have improved rest facilities for pilots to use while cargo is loaded and unloaded during night time operations.  The FAA encourages cargo operators to opt into the new rule voluntarily, which would require them to comply with all of its provisions,” added the FAA.

“The FAA’s only basis for excluding cargo rests on a cost benefit analysis,” said Trent.  “Yet, the Agency does not articulate how it arrived at either the projected costs or benefits of applying the final rule to cargo operators.  The rule is wholly and utterly opaque when it comes to providing any factual support for the cost benefit conclusions reached,” he added.   

The Department of Transportation identified the issue of pilot fatigue as a top priority during a 2009 airline Safety Call to Action following the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407.

The FAA rule will take effect in two years to allow commercial passenger airline operators time to transition. The estimated cost of the rule to the aviation industry is $297 million.