Not Part 117 mandated, but voluntarily adopted
News Article on Pilot Fatigue
Fatigue Risk Management System can’t work without reports
For many years, aviation attempted to regulate the fitness of pilots under a set of rules known as “flight and duty time.” A relatively simple set of rules attracted more requests for interpretation than any FAR. In 2009, a Flight and Duty Time ARC Charter was established and charged to deliver answers these four questions within a year:
The task involved state-of-art science, management and union awareness of the interstices in the old rules, stakeholders’ knowledge of how crews are scheduled and expert rule-writers. One of the largest challenges was to write regulations which were both readily understandable (no compound/complex dependent clauses) and capable of being enforced.
Not surprisingly, the NPRM for this project did not hit the Federal Register (78 FR pages in small font) until 2012. The new Part 117 introduced a new methodology called Fatigue Risk Management System (14 CFR § 117.7 ). As opposed to the old prescriptive criteria, FRMS is a process dependent on data to identify systemic fatigue, address that problem and redress through changes to schedules. [ALPA presented a very thorough explanation of this safety measure.]
AC No: 120-103A Fatigue Risk Management Systems for Aviation Safety, Date: 5/6/13, explains how this approach is supposed to operate as seen in this depiction. One of the critical elements of this methodology is explained
11. TOOLS FOR AN EFFECTIVE FRMS. There are four basic tools for an FRMS to be effective. These basic tools are fatigue-related data, fatigue analysis methods, identification and management of fatigue drivers, and application of fatigue mitigation procedures.
a.Fatigue-Related Data. An effective FRMS is data-driven, meaning that it relies on the use of reports, studies, etc., rather than on speculation…
(2) A nonpunitive reporting system permits crewmembers and other employees to report subjective fatigue and, from time to time, request relief from duties because of chronic fatigue. These reports contain valuable data, especially when coupled with information about the conditions that contributed to fatigue, such as the work schedule for the week prior to the report. …Therefore, data on procedural errors and flight exceedances, Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) or Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) reports, and flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) data may help a certificate holder to objectively document fatigue. Certificate holders may couple data sources with scheduling information or other event data reported by crewmembers that implicate the potential for fatigue (e.g., flight delays and irregular operations). A nonpunitive reporting system is essential to encouraging the reporting of fatigue related events as part of the overall safety system.
11.COMPONENTS OF AN FRMS
a.Incident Reporting Process (§ 117.7(b)(5)). Reports of adverse events that may be attributable wholly or in part to fatigue are similar to crew reports, and can serve as a mechanism for obtaining all relevant information regarding fatigue contributions to the incident. … a methodology for conducting a detailed Root Cause Analysis (RCA). Details of RCAs are available elsewhere (refer to the current edition of AC 120-59, Air Carrier Internal Evaluation Programs) but at a minimum, the incident investigation and reporting process must obtain all the necessary information to trace the root cause of the incident, especially the potential level of fatigue and the conditions that contributed to the fatigue-related event. The FRMS policy must provide for protection of privacy and methods to protect the employee from adverse actions that would discourage reporting events and conditions surrounding the events.
FedEx, as a cargo carrier, is not mandated to comply with Part 117, but in conjunction with the ALPA FedEx Master, has adopted an FRM model.
The below article is not precise enough in describing the bases of the pilot fatigue complaints. The cited response of management does not mention whether any analysis or remedies were performed in response to any pilot problems. The absence of any FRMS reviews or results allows one to surmise that no reports were made. If ALPA is using the Memphis commercial appeal as a mechanism to raise safety concerns, that is unfortunate. If FedEx ignored any fatigue complaints, that is even more unfortunate.
One important detail which may point to the real reason for pilot fatigue is found this quote:
Trip Miller, managing partner of Memphis-based Gullane Capital Partners, said FedEx pilots who invest with Gullane have told him they’re working as many flights as they can get. These pilots “are literally working around the clock” because they aren’t sure how long the increased flight demand will last, he said.
If that is a credible quote, one must wonder it his clients are taking their fitness for duty obligation seriously?
Memphis Commercial Appeal
FedEx Express pilots have made more fatigue calls as the company “has been operating at or above peak levels” the past few months, according to its pilots union.
Pilots have reported duty periods in which they were concerned about being fatigued and not fully alert during flights, the FedEx Express Master Executive Council said in a publication to members last week. The union said it has also seen an increase in duty extensions.
The Air Line Pilots Association, which the FedEx pilots union is part of, has asked FedEx management in “a number of instances” to increase duty periods to factor in cargo sort delays, flight plan revisions and COVID-19 testing and screening protocols.
“Currently, there are many duty periods where the actual duty time exceeds the planned duty time,” the FedEx Express Master Executive Council said in its publication. “In those cases, the onus is on the individual pilot to assess whether or not they are able to safely continue.”
In a statement Sunday, FedEx said the increase has been slight “based on the current dynamic operating environment,” noting its fatigue risk management program and the strict scheduling requirements in its collective bargaining agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association.
“This program also allows crew members to call in fatigued or excessively tired without penalty,” FedEx said in its statement. “This multi-faceted approach, coupled with a science-based scheduling model and interactive process with ALPA, helps ensure the continued safety and reliability of our operations.”
Pilot has ‘stressful and tiring night’
One report, noted in the union message, detailed a pilot who was set to operate a flight to Oakland International Airport (OAK), then had his schedule revised to operate a flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) instead.
“Initially, I was supposed to operate back to OAK; however, the scheduled block time exceeded 8 hours, making me illegal to operate the OAK leg,” the unidentified pilot said. “I was subsequently revised again to operate a delayed flight to LAX. By this time, I had been awake for 16 hours. I informed the scheduler that I was very concerned about fatigue because I would be awake for nearly 22 hours.”
Another report notes the long string of steps required after landing at Vietnam airports Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) and Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN). This included three van rides, filling out a health questionnaire and going through immigration procedures.
“Each one of our legs had a late arrival,” the pilot said. “Found ourselves behind and trying to catch up. We found ourselves making mistakes, especially on the 3rd leg. That, and constantly dodging thunderstorms made for a stressful and tiring night. The night was capped off with the (long) immigration process in CAN.”
FedEx pilots ‘working around the clock’
In its most recently reported quarter, FedEx Express saw a 56% decline in operating income and a 13% drop in package volume from the year-before quarter, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses worldwide.
That doesn’t mean FedEx pilots are sitting idle — the air cargo giant saw a surge in transpacific and charter flights, the company disclosed in a June regulatory filing.
FedEx pilots played a vital role in the federal government-managed Project Airbridge since it began in March, delivering COVID-19 relief supplies throughout the country.
The union said it knows of 47 FedEx pilots who tested positive for COVID-19. Captain Paul Fox died from COVID-19 April 7.
FedEx shareholder said FedEx pilots who invest with Gullane have told him they’re working as many flights as they can get. These pilots “are literally working around the clock” because they aren’t sure how long the increased flight demand will last, he said.
“(FedEx) mothballed a lot of aging aircraft,” Miller said. “Well, because of the demand, they’ve been pulling planes out of the desert and putting those planes back in the air. It’s a great time to be a FedEx pilot if you’re willing to work overtime right now.”
Max Garland covers FedEx, logistics and health care for The Commercial Appeal. Reach him at email@example.com or 901-529-2651 and on Twitter @MaxGarlandTypes.
 Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS), as prescribed in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 117
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