March 18, 2021

Fatigue risk management benefits from both prescriptive and performance-based measures as they provide flight crews, mechanics and dispatchers the ability to capture and measure data to reduce the impact of fatigue on safety, said a panel of experts during the most recent NBAA GO Flight Operations safety webinar.

The combination of prescriptive codes and regulations with scientifically determined performance standards allows a flight department to tailor fatigue management for each mission, said Chris Bing, ‎manager of safety and international captain at Raytheon Technologies. “You have to do more than just manage fatigue. You have to capture data and measure it because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

“The science is there. We know that if you lose out on an hour of sleep, you end up in a sleep debt, and your performance today or tomorrow is going to be very different than it will be five days from now,” added Bing, a recipient of this year’s NBAA Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award. “By incorporating a performance-based system into your fatigue risk management, you will be able to create a metric or determine a trend that will help you eliminate risk factors associated with fatigue.”

Pedro Manancero, captain and safety manager at BAE Systems, explained that this dual approach to fatigue management provides both proactive and reactive tools to understand the impact of fatigue on safety.
“We have a performance-based fatigue score that uses an algorithmic, bio-mathematical model that captures our fatigue scores when we input trips into them, and it will predict the fatigue over the course of a trip,” said Manancero. “We also have prescriptive requirements, like filing a report for extending the duty day, and by combining these methods we can capture data and use that to determine if fatigue was a causal factor if a safety issue occurs.”

Performance-based systems also support codified, prescriptive safety protocols, Manancero added. “When we take our data from our performance-based system and gauge how a flight will be affected by fatigue, we find that our prescriptive guidelines filter out almost all of those flights. You don’t have to have a performance-based system, but the performance-based system allows you to identify those trips that can be most impacted by fatigue,” he said.

Flight departments should not be daunted by the idea of using methods such as mathematical modeling to produce safety insights, said Manancero. “It doesn’t have to be that complicated. It can be as simple as using a wearable, like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, to see how much sleep you got the night before,” he noted. “A lot of big words are thrown around issues like safety and fatigue risk management, but sometimes the simplest solution can be the best,” he added.

Fatigue risk management also should not be restricted to the cockpit, and flight departments should be wary of the safety impact of exhaustion on dispatchers and mechanics as well as flight crews, said Bing. “You don’t need to have a complex plan,” he noted. “You just need to have a plan that is proactive and appreciates that a mechanic who works late or a dispatcher who covered a 12-hour international flight could be tired and that that could lead to mistakes.”

During this episode of “Turns Around a Pint,” an extra session connected with the recent NBAA GO Flight Operations Conference, Bing and Manancero also talked with moderator Max Grover, CAM, aviation safety officer at Dell Technologies, about the importance of dispatchers in fatigue management, the benefits of soft and hard mitigations, and the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on safety protocols, as well as the importance of NBAA’s human factors resource, which considers the impact of fatigue and crew resource management on aviation safety.

Review NBAA’s human factors resources.

Flight Operations Conference attendees may access this limited series of safety webinars, as well as other education sessions and exhibitor booths, through March 25. Learn more.