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Managing Fatigue in Aviation Operations – A Shared Responsibility

Human Factors | April 1, 2014

Author: Roger Jamieson


Fatigue. Many papers have been written on this subject. The effect of fatigue on aviation operations warrants particular scrutiny because even a momentary lapse in attention or judgement can have devastating consequences.

Fatigue can critically impact performance and impair the actions required to avoid hazards. Long duty days, operational complexity, environmental conditions, and limited rest between duty days can contribute to fatigue. State authorities have written regulations to address this issue, but in some cases, the results have been mixed.

In Canada, a misunderstanding among some operators relates to the minimum crew rest between duty days. Very basically, it is the requirement for 8 hours prone and time required around this to start the next duty day. For planning purposes, companies allot a set amount of time from wheels down to wheels up, which varies by operator. If we take 12 hours as an example, that gives us 4 hours total. Let’s break this down.

• Time to finish off duties once plane has landed: 20 minutes minimum.
• Travel time (both ways): 2 hours.
• Time before wheels up report time (to allow for flight planning and prepping the aircraft, and for crew to be ready 30 minutes prior to departure time): 1.5 hours.

If the pilot gets his or her 8 hours prone, this would leave only 10 minutes to eat dinner and breakfast, shower, shave, dress, and perform any other household duties.

This is just an illustration showing that, in reality, the crew member could require more time to be ready and well-rested for a flight.

A keen understanding of how duty time planning affects individuals and flight operations is not only important for pilots. Operational personnel, especially those involved in dispatch and scheduling, benefit from increased awareness surrounding fatigue, human factors, and risk management.

Roger Jamieson is a technical advisor for

aviation professional

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