More Than a Box Tick: Achieving Operational Flexibility With an FRMS

Matthew van Wollen

By Matthew van Wollen
Chief Financial Officer, Pulsar Informatics, Inc.

Posted on July 8, 2024
frustrated mom with daughter on cellphone in background

Moms know best. This adage holds true in many domains of family life—allergies, grades, crushes.

When thinking about aviation safety, though, perhaps the best illustration drawn from mom’s expertise is evaluating whether a sick child is eligible to return to school. The tried-and-true approach here is to look deeply into the child’s eyes, listen to their self-attestations as to their health status and check their temperature. Mom then makes the call, considering all the above information sources.

Why not simply wait 10 days from symptom onset and then give Sally the green light to return to the classroom? Indeed, this approach was used during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when science had not yet grasped the pathophysiology of the virus. Like all one-size-fits-all solutions, it works… but it is not efficient.

It’s entirely feasible that mom would determine Sally is fit for school within a week. That means keeping her at home for longer deprives her that much more of the opportunity to pursue her primary occupation—learning and socializing, in this case. It also creates costs for mom, who may need to take time off work to look after her.

So, mom goes about making the decision her own way. She pulls information from multiple sources, considering qualitative (both observed and self-reported) and quantitative (temperature reading from a thermometer) data. This approach recognizes and addresses the reality that no two children are alike. In fact, no two cases of sickness of the same child are alike, either.

Rethinking Fatigue Management

The traditional approach to managing crewmember fatigue was to place limits on cumulative flight and duty hours and specify minimum rest periods between duties. This simple approach had its origins in the Industrial Revolution and was based on a long history of observations of factory workers.

In 1988, a fatal railway collision at Clapham Junction in London was found to have been caused in part by fatigue of a signal worker. This was the impetus for introducing regulatory limits on duty periods in rail, maritime and eventually commercial aviation. The scientific understanding of fatigue was still in its infancy, and it wasn’t until the early aughts that the relationship between sleep and performance began to be more rigorously studied.

A New Framework for Quantifying Alertness

During this time, Pulsar Informatics was founded, and we were fortunate to join a leading group of academics developing a new framework for quantifying alertness. These scientists used biomathematical modeling to establish how alertness is linked to sleep debt, time awake and workload.

Regulators were paying attention, and in 2006, the European Commission adopted a new regulatory framework for flight crew that harmonized flight and duty limits among European states and, crucially, permitted variances from these limits based on “current scientific knowledge.”1 Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) were born.

Addressing Fatigue With Data-Driven Policies

Today, the performance-based approach to managing fatigue is well-established around the globe. In a nutshell, FRMS is a data-driven set of policies, procedures and controls to keep tabs on crew fatigue levels. Going beyond a one-dimensional measurement of elapsed time, FRMS tracks multi-dimensional fatigue metrics, including self-reported measures (how sleepy have you been in the past 5 minutes?) and objective measures (the Psychomotor Vigilance Test).

Using data from multiple sources, an air operator can make better decisions about whether a flight crew can extend their duty period. Sound familiar? It is exactly like mom evaluating Sally’s readiness to return to school. The upshot is that FRMS provides operators with greater operational flexibility, which translates to higher efficiency and lower costs—all without compromising safety.

Find out how you can harness the power of the latest science to take your operation to the next level. Contact Pulsar Informatics to schedule a demo today!

1Sub-part Q of the EU-OPS 1, the Council Regulation (EEC) No 3922/91 on the harmonisation of technical requirements and administrative procedures in the field of civil aviation.

Pulsar Informatics, Inc. Pulsar Informatics, Inc.
Pulsar Informatics is an IS-BAO I3SA certified company specializing in systems that help organizations reduce fatigue-related risk and achieve peak performance. Fleet Insight enables safety managers and schedulers to proactively evaluate fatigue across their entire operation’s schedule and formulate mitigation strategies. Fatigue Meter Pro Planner is used by pilots, flight attendants, and maintenance personnel to evaluate their individual flight and duty schedule.

© 2024 Pulsar Informatics, Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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