Referring to the article I read some time back in The Economist, was about “Why Airlines make such meagre profits”. Author suggested many reasons for shrinking profits but the most important one was cut throat competition and constant pressure of low fares from competitors.
The Shrinking profits, pushed Airlines to increase frequency on competitive sectors at the same time reduce operational costs. Due to this Airline Pilots have been pushed to work longer hours.
Longer working hours have had a serious implications on alertness of Pilots resulting in many incidents over the years.
A study carried out by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of 55 human-factor aviation accidents from 1978 to 1999, concluded accidents increased proportionally to the amount of time the captain had been on duty. The accident proportion relative to exposure proportion rose from 0.79 (1–3 hours on duty) to 5.62 ( more than 13 hours on duty).
This means that “5.62% of human factors accidents occurred to pilots who had been on duty for 13 or more hours, where only 1% of pilot duty hours occur during that time.”
In another study by Wilson, Caldwell and Russell, participants were given three different tasks that simulated the pilot’s environment. The tasks included reacting to warning lights, managing simulated cockpit scenarios, and conducting a simulated UAV mission. The subjects’ performance was tested in a well-rested state and again after being sleep deprived.
In the tasks that were not as complex, such as reacting to warning lights and responding to automated alerts, it was found that there was a significant decrease in performance during the sleep deprived stage.
These studies have been so significant that Civil Aviation Authorities world over have come up with strict guidelines to safeguard its passengers from any catastrophe due pilot fatigue. These guidelines have been made applicable to Scheduled Airlines as well Non Scheduled operators. The guidelines are commonly called Flight Duty Time Limits(FDTL)/FTL or Crew fatigue Management.
Flight and Duty Time Limitations (FTL) are necessary to ensure that pilot fatigue does not endanger flight safety. So any attempts to interpret and apply the rules in a way that compromises safety must be prevented.
Recently many duty time Tracking software’s have emerged which uses latest technologies such as mobile apps to track and manage duty hours and rest requirements for pilots.
Not having a comprehensive software system can lead to:
- Human Errors.
- Embarrassment while facing Statutory Audits.
- Dependency on Staff.
- Over and under utilization of crew.
- Last minute cancellation due to non-availability of required crew.
- Training & Documents Renewals and not done at the right time.