While the industry appears to be heading to a less prescriptive approach to fatigue management there is still a place for traditional regulations that limit the number of hours worked vs. The new thoughts of "comprehensive plans" that help identify fatigue and mitigate risks. It is possible that a flight attendant error, due to fatigue, could possibly result in the death or serious injury to some of our passengers. (Battelle,1998)
Therefore, it is crucial that we be just as concerned with flight attendant fatigue as pilot and mechanic fatigue if we hope to achieve the aviation goal of preventing accidents and saving lives.
The Acme Air Planned Solutions
Acme's first step was to gather crew input. Categories of the changes recommended by crews and adopted by Acme Air to reduce fatigue include:
Rest Eliminate scheduled reduced rest
Eliminate reduced rest
Longer rest periods
Shorter duty Shorter duty days
Limit number of duty hours allowed
CDOs Eliminate CDOs
No consecutive CDOs
Fewer legs Schedule fewer flight legs
Limit number of flight legs
Consistent scheduling Schedule for days or nights, no alternating
Do not mix CDOs & morning report times
Minimize multiple scheduling changes
Breaks Schedule turnaround times to allow for break/meal/bathroom
Do not schedule long (several hour) breaks between flights
Food/bev Provide food and beverage on flight
Schedule enough time between flight legs for meals
Transport/rest Start rest period upon arrival at hotel (do not count transport)
Reserve Consider time on reserve as duty time
Shorter reserve periods (limit to either a.m. Or p.m.)
Acme Air's plan started with the finding that fatigue can be prevented by individuals taking preemptive measures. First, it formally identified the problem in a company directive:
"Symptoms of fatigue include a feeling of indifference to one's performance, increased reaction time, a decreased ability to concentrate on multiple tasks, fixation, short-term memory loss, impaired judgment, impaired decision-making ability, distractibility, sloppy flying skills, reduced visual perception, loss of initiative, personality changes and depression." (Company literature, 2010)
Acme issued this further directive to all personnel: "Pilots take great pride in their skills and abilities, yet they let their performance degrade needlessly due to fatigue. It is in their hands to take the necessary steps to remain safe and alert, even when the government and their employers are allowing them to work irrational and dangerous schedules. Planning to get enough sleep before a trip is the most obvious step. Using earplugs and eye masks can help in this endeavor.
"Another step would be to eat properly. Everyone should exercise often, but remember to do so well before the start of a trip. This will make the pilot healthier and more alert. Pilots can stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially during a flight, and avoid coffee, sodas and alcohol. They can wear noise-reducing headsets if the cockpit is loud.
"Finally, all crew personnel must stay home when they are ill, for their own sake and for their fellow crew members."
The company's literature was amended to state that fatigue was closely interrelated to other problems in that it can be a symptom of them, or it can be the cause. The most obvious cause of fatigue would be a lack of sleep, but other factors would include stress, anxiety and poor health. It can also be a cause of these problems. Furthermore, fatigue can be the symptom of other problems such as hypoxia and dehydration.
Next, Acme Air formally redefined the scheduled "rest period." Under current FAA guidelines, flight attendants must be allowed nine hours of "rest" between flights. Under certain conditions, such as a longer rest period of 10 hours after the second flight, that initial time can be cut to eight hours.
Added to that is the actual amount of rest that a flight attendant gets between flights when one adds in the time needed to clear the airport, travel to a hotel, eat, prepare for the next day's flight, then try to get to sleep in a strange city while plagued by jetlag. These other activities no longer count as rest at Acme Air, for pilots and attendants.
The management found that lack of sleep can cause the flight attendants to be slow to respond to emergencies in the cabin as well as be less sensitive to potentially dangers conditions, such as the ever growing problem of cabin rage. "And with the increased need for security, there is an ever greater need for awareness of security situational integrity of the cabin," read the company directive.
Lastly, management changed the company's sick leave policy to "unlimited days." It became no longer financially disadvantageous for crew members to report their malady. Antihistamines help by alleviating the symptoms of illness but by their nature they also increase fatigue. Regardless, making these people work does their fellow crew members a disfavor by exposing them to their illness and further increasing the possibility of an operational error due to fatigue.
Management then agreed to revisit the issue with more decisions in 18 months.
Battelle Memorial Institute. (1998) A Review of Issues Concerning Duty Period Limitations,
Flight Time Limitations, and Rest Requirements. Federal Aviation Administration (AAR-100). Washington, D.C.
Caldwell, J.A. (1997) Fatigue in the Aviation Environment: An Overview of the Causes and Effects As Well As Recommended Countermeasures, Aviat Space and Environ Med 1997, 68:932-8.
Co, E.L., Gregory, K.B., Johnson, J.M., and Rosekind, M.R., Crew Factors in Flight Operation
XI: A Survey of Fatigue Factors in Regional Airline Operations (1999) NASA
Colquhoun, P. (1976). Psychological and Psycho physiological Aspects of Work and Fatigue
Activitas Nervosa Superior, 18, 257-263.
Commercial Aviation. NASA Tech Memorandum 110404. Moffett Field, CA: NASA Ames