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Don’t mention the F-word

by Dr Rob Hunter BALPA Head of Flight Safety

BALPA knows how important the issue of fatigue is to our members and we know some of the long-standing issues faced daily in the realities of dealing with the regulations. To help members understand more about the issue, the BALPA flight safety team is hosting a series of seminars for members that will seek to honestly and straightforwardly engage with these issues and highlight both lessons learned and where gaps in knowledge still exist.

The day’s activities will be presented by BALPA’s fatigue experts who will be covering some of the main concerns, see a little taster of what to expect from the day explained here.

Describing the regulatory framework for pilot fatigue and provide our perspective on its vulnerabilities and ambiguities

Part of our ‘F Word’ seminars will see our in-house experts cover the often-confusing language and ambiguity in the way a lot of the regulation is written. Any sound regulatory system should aim for clarity and consensus in its interpretation. So, rules that confuse pilots and other frontline professionals on a daily basis are hardly fit for purpose. Just one example is around the term ‘maximum flight duty period’. Pilots know that ‘maximum flight duty period’ is not a precise length of time that can never be exceeded. On top of ‘maximum’, conditional extensions and discretionary periods can be added. So ‘maximum’ becomes a highly elastic concept. It does not determine the real, effective maximum on any given working day, despite rules such as the ‘18 hour awake’ rule that depend on this precise calculation. During the seminar BALPA’s Head of Flight Safety, Human Factors Scientist, and Biomathematical Modeller will aim to provide clarity on such terms.

Disentangling some of the scientific issues regarding fatigue, and discussing the reality of the measurement and analysis of fatigue in aviation

Our Human Factors Scientist and Bio-mathematical Modeller live and breathe the science and numbers behind pilot fatigue. Having such available data is already proving extremely useful when it comes to negotiating with airlines in fatigue matters, but it also means that BALPA has some of the best scientific insight into the real problem in the industry. This part of the session will look at issues such as the accuracy of bio-mathematical models, deciding when to sleep when on stand-by duties and why early starts are so deeply fatiguing.

Covering best and worst reporting practices

For many pilots it is more fatiguing to report fatigue than to put up with it. We will demonstrate what a best practice fatigue reporting system looks like.

Present individual case studies which illustrate the recurring scheduling problems that we assist our members with

Our two Scheduling Specialists work tirelessly with the Company Councils and airlines to ensure that schedules are monitored, and bad practice can be stamped out. We are also regularly assisting members both legally and industrially on matters of fatigue. However, a lot of BALPA’s work in this area goes unreported due to legal restrictions. In this part of the seminar we will run through some anonymised case studies that will highlight exactly what clout BALPA has for individual members.

When and where?

We are hosting three seminars but may look to provide more should we get the demand. Currently, you can choose from the below sessions:

  • Heathrow seminar, 8th June, 09.30-15.00, BALPA House, 5 Heathrow Boulevard, 278 Bath Road, West Drayton, UB7 0DQ
  • Gatwick seminar, 25th June, Gatwick Aviation Museum, full details TBC
  • Manchester seminar, full details TBC

Please book your place by emailing ToniGirdler@balpa.org with the subject line “Don’t mention the F-word!” and the location of your choice. Please note, this is available to BALPA members only.

About the speakers