In order to ensure that risk-assessment models are valid during epidemics, UK civil aviation regulators are urging operators to encourage crews to report fatigue-related events as a result of extraordinary duty practices.
The epidemic severely disrupted the carriers’ services and forced the crew to quickly adapt to different duty cycles and changes in their environment.
“Operators must recognize that security reporting and behavior may have changed and seek to verify all available information and safety data,” the UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a newly released safety notice.
It states that pilots and cabin crews should be “actively encouraged” to report fatigue-related events so that they can self-declare that they are unfit to fly “without fear of disciplinary action”.
“Current methods for assessing and managing team fatigue may require additional consideration and action to identify and mitigate the risks of fatigue,” the statement added.
It acknowledges that operating procedures may need to be changed by applying flight time-limit exemptions to basic flight-duty time limits and leisure requirements, while some activities – particularly freight traffic – have become hectic, while isolation and test controls restrict leisure facilities and time spent on the ground.
“Additional strategies should be included other than operating within the recommended flight and duty time limits,” the announcement said.
“Operators are encouraged to consider functional fatigue in a more holistic approach, including its potential impact on employee mental health and well-being and aviation safety.”
It states that operators should focus on “key scientific principles” when developing fatigue-mitigation strategies for rostering and scheduling, taking into account the impact of insomnia, circadian rhythms and workload.
Operators should also identify staff, such as training teams, to ensure that they are employed at an increased rate and that adequate support is allocated to them.
Carriers that modify their operational scope – such as changing long and short-distance flying combinations – can be considered for more fatigue-management angles than having a more stable shape.
“The consequences [pandemic] Fatigue on board and cabin crew should not be underestimated, ”it warns.
“Current methods of assessing and managing employee fatigue may require additional measures to identify, capture, and minimize the risks resulting from the impact of the crisis on fatigue.
“Operators must have adequate aircraft and cabin crew, but they must also have adequate office-based personnel to carry out the support activities required for efficient operational fatigue management.”