New Fatigue Science Ready for Real-World Application

 - April 30, 2013, 1:00 PM

An RAA-sponsored study into the fatigue effects of multi-segment flight operations has reached the end of its third and final stage, involving the development of so-called fatigue risk management systems (FRMS). Speaking with AIN a few weeks before the start of this year’s RAA Convention in Montreal, association vice president Scott Foose explained that Phase 3 identified ways to incorporate the science gleaned from the study, begun in 2009 by Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center, into airlines’ daily operations. At the time Foose said he expected the third phase to end “soon,” after which the RAA plans to team with airlines to begin adopting the FRMS programs.

Early last year WSU research professor and the convention’s featured luncheon speaker, Dr. Hans Van Dongen, finished the study’s first phase, which involved developing the first-ever computer model capable of predicting fatigue attributed to pilot workload. In Phase 2, conducted last fall, researchers measured pilot activity levels as they “flew” in simulators to validate the Phase 1 findings. Tentative plans called for Van Dongen to present the final results of the study at the convention.

“Clearly the FAA’s effort in 2009 was to move off the one-size-fits-all type of rule [governing] pilot scheduling, and go to a more science-based rule system,” said Foose. “It did take a step forward in the right direction but the gaps we identified are still troublesome…[FRMS], in my view, is the direction the industry is going to take.”