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Fatigue-related challenges in COVID-19 conditions

COVID-19 conditions both within the State and globally mean that there may be additional fatigue-related challenges when returning to normal operations.  

In current COVID-19 conditions, the following present further challenges for managing fatigue-related risks:

  • The unknown effects of the continuation of other alleviations that the operators may be using (such as extended validity periods for proficiency and medical checks);

  • Reduced roster publication timelines  due to rapidly changing commercial schedules;

  • Fatigue mitigation options for the pairings and the roster are limited due to lack of flexibility in the reduced aircraft flying programme;

  • Reduced contingency options;

  • Restrictions at layover locations affecting rest periods, including hotel issues, access to nutrition, etc.;

  • Uneven workload distribution between crew members due to a limited pool of pilots for reasons such as recency and currency or due to reduced number of available bases;

  • Increased workload placed on training captains as more pilots return to flying requiring training for recency or currency;

  • Rostering to maximum or minimum flight and duty limits and the potential for further roster disruption when delays are encountered;

  • Failure of pre-flight reporting times and post-flight duty to take account of the additional time needed for extra airport and company procedures;

  • Short notice changes and disruption to rostered duties because of rapidly changing State restrictions;

  • Airport congestion due to COVID checks creating on time performance issues;

  • Additional workload and fatigue-related issues with regard to the wearing of PPE with Cabin Crew & additional passenger procedures whilst on board;

  • Unexpected delays or extended turnaround times due to new COVID-19 procedures;

  • Difficulties associated with ensuring availability and access to adequate meals for crew during the flight period;

  • Altered and more time-consuming aerodrome security arrangements secondary to COVID-19 conditions.

  • Changed pairing construction, different routes and to unfamiliar airports, and changes from passenger to cargo-only flights.

  • Crew hesitancy to report fatigue-related hazards when there is an over-supply of pilots.

These conditions could mean the State's prescriptive regulations, including maximum flight and duty limits and minimum rest periods may not be sufficient to maintain an acceptable level of safety due to the unknown and rapidly-changing environment.  It is imperative that operators look to managing their unique operational safety risks using their SMS.  

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