The Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) first Aviation Fatigue Management Symposium produced agreement on two major points: As in other modes of transportation, fatigue can be a genuine factor affecting aviation operations, and now is the time to do something about it.
The symposium, which ran from June 17 through 19, brought together 325 experts from industry, government and academia to share the most current information on fatigue and discuss possible fatigue management strategies and best practices. The participants looked at issues affecting flight and cabin crews, air traffic controllers, technicians, mechanics, dispatchers and ramp workers. The first day of the conference featured a comprehensive review of the factors contributing to fatigue in flight operations and air traffic control by researchers from the National Transportation Safety Board. Other sessions covered evidence for fatigue in flight, air traffic, maintenance and ramp operations, and what many experts consider the key to addressing the problem: scientifically based fatigue risk management systems. Day Two included presentations on the current state of fatigue management from organizations as varied as the FAA, airlines, NAVCANADA and university scientists. The evidence and scientific research presented at the symposium served as the background for continuing discussion groups that covered international long-haul operations, domestic operations (transcontinental, multi-leg, and short haul), air traffic control and technical operations, and maintenance. The discussion groups presented their findings on the third day of the symposium. The conference attendees generally agreed that fatigue mitigation must be based on scientific principles developed through enhanced data collection. They also emphasized the necessity for government and industry to develop a culture that does not penalize employees who excuse themselves from duty due to fatigue. The conferees recognized that incorporating fatigue risk management systems into everyday operations is the ultimate goal, but doing so will take innovation in addressing a myriad of regulatory issues. The FAA hopes the participating individuals and organizations will use the information and concepts shared during the symposium as a springboard to develop effective fatigue management strategies.