In aviation operations, managing fatigue is important because it diminishes an individual’s ability to perform almost all operational tasks. This clearly has implications for operational efficiency, but in situations where individuals are undertaking safety-critical activities, fatigue-effected performance can also have consequences for safety outcomes. Fatigue is a natural consequence of human physiology.
Because fatigue is affected by all waking activities (not only work demands), fatigue management has to be a shared responsibility between the State, service providers and individuals.
A brief history of flight and/or duty limitations
For most workers, hours of work are part of the working conditions and remuneration packages established through industrial agreements or social legislation. They are not necessarily established from a safety perspective.
However, the need to limit pilots’ flight and duty hours for the purpose of flight safety was recognized in ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) in the first edition of Annex 6 published in 1949. At that time, ICAO SARPs required the operator to be responsible for establishing flight time limits that ensured that “fatigue, either occurring in a flight or successive flights or accumulating over a period of time, did not endanger the safety of a flight”. These limits had to be approved by the State.
By 1995, ICAO SARPs required States to establish flight time, flight duty periods and rest periods for international flight and cabin crew. The onus was on the State to identify “informed boundaries” that aimed to address the general fatigue risk for flight operations nationally. At no time have ICAO SARPs identified actual flight and duty hours because it had proven impossible to identify global limits that adequately addressed operational contexts in different regions.While ICAO SARPs apply only to international operations, many States also chose to establish similar flight and duty time limitations for domestic operations. States generally used the same flight and duty limits for helicopter crew as for airline crew.
The fallacy of flight and/or duty limitations is that staying within them means that operations are always safe. Buying into this fallacy suggests that scheduling to the limits is enough to manage fatigue-related risks. However, more recent SARP amendments related to prescriptive limits have highlighted the responsibilities of the operator to manage their particular fatigue-related risks within the limits using their SMS processes.
And then there was FRMS….
Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) represent an opportunity for operators to use their resources more efficiently and increase operational flexibility outside the prescriptive limits, whilst maintaining or even improving safety. In implementing an FRMS, the onus shifts to the operator to prove to the State that what they propose to do and how they continue to operate under an FRMS, is safe.
In 2011, SARPs enabling FRMS as an alternative means of compliance to prescriptive limitations were developed for aeroplane flight and cabin crew (Annex 6, Part I). At the time of development, it was necessary to address concerns that airline operators would take this as an opportunity to schedule purely for economic benefits at the cost of safety. Therefore, while often referred to as “performance-based” approach, the FRMS SARPs are nevertheless very prescriptive about the necessary elements of an FRMS and require the explicit approval of an operator’s FRMS by the State.
Since then, similar FRMS SARPs were made applicable for helicopter flight and cabin crew in 2018 (Annex 6, Part III, Section II).
But what about air traffic controllers?
Despite their obvious impact on flight safety outcomes, ICAO SARPs have never required the hours of work to be limited for air traffic controllers even though some States have had hours of duty limitations for air traffic controllers for many years. This is about to change. Amendments to Annex 11, becoming applicable in 2020, will require that ICAO States establish duty limits and specify certain scheduling practices for air traffic controllers. As for international airline and helicopter operations, States will have the option of establishing FRMS regulations for air traffic service providers.
Fatigue Management SARPs today
Today, ICAO’s fatigue management SARPs support both prescriptive and FRMS approaches for managing fatigue such that:
- Both approaches are based on scientific principles, knowledge and operational experience that take into account:
- the need for adequate sleep (not just resting while awake) to restore and maintain all aspects of waking function (including alertness, physical and mental performance, and mood);
- the circadian rhythms that drive changes in the ability to perform mental and physical work, and in sleep propensity (the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep), across the 24h day;
- interactions between fatigue and workload in their effects on physical and mental performance; and
- the operational context and the safety risk that a fatigue-impaired individual represents in that context.
- States continue to be obliged to have flight and duty time limitations but are under no obligation to establish FRMS regulations. Where FRMS regulations are established, the operator/service provider, can manage none, some or all of its operations under an FRMS, once approved to do so.
- Prescriptive fatigue management regulations now provide the baseline, in terms of safety equivalence, from which an FRMS is assessed.
In Airlines: The Fatigue Management amendments to the Annex 6, Part I, in 2011 led many States to reviewing their prescriptive limitation regulations for pilots based on scientific principles and knowledge (refer text box) and identifying further requirements for operators to manage their fatigue-related risks within the prescribed limits. Fewer States have reviewed their prescriptive limitation regulations for cabin crew.
In every case, despite a refocus on providing adequate opportunities for sleep and recovery, altering existing flight and duty limitations remains a very sensitive and difficult task because it impacts income and work conditions as well as the constraints of pre-existing employment agreements. It is made even more challenging for States whose flight and duty time limitations are legislated.
Where States have reviewed their prescribed flight and duty limits, the increased awareness of the relationship between sleep and performance has served to highlight the responsibilities of the individual crew member and the airline to manage fatigue, and in some cases have resulted in the prescribed limits sitting alongside a set of regulations that make these responsibilities more explicit, e.g. the FAA’s Fatigue Risk Management Program, EASA’s Fatigue Management requirements, CASA’s Fatigue Management requirements and CAA South Africa’s Fatigue Management Program.
|The scientific principles of fatigue management
Many States have established, or plan to establish, FRMS regulations, often at the encouragement of their airlines. The FRMS challenge for States continues to be whether they have the resources to provide the necessary oversight from a scientific and performance-based perspective, particularly when the same regulations usually apply to a variety of domestic flight operations. While FRMS requirements are onerous and time-consuming, the few airlines who have so far managed to get FRMS approval for particular routes have found the operational flexibility gained to be worth the effort.
|General scheduling principles
In Helicopter Operations: For some States, the recent amendments to Annex 6, Part II (Section II) have highlighted the need to establish flight and duty time limits for helicopter crew members that better relate to the context of helicopter operations, rather than using the same limits as for airline pilots. Within those limits, the helicopter operator is expected to build crew schedules that use both fatigue science and operational knowledge and experience.
A new fatigue management guide for helicopter operators, currently under development in ICAO, identifies general scheduling principles based on fatigue science to guide helicopter operators in building “fatigue-aware” schedules that offer optimum opportunities for sleep and recovery (refer text box).
The particular challenge in helicopter operations, however, is that so many helicopter operations are unscheduled. While some helicopter operators will be able to operate within prescribed limits and effectively manage fatigue risks using an SMS, many types of helicopter operations, such as those that require unscheduled, immediate responses, possibly in high-risk settings, will benefit from the operational flexibility and safety gains of an FRMS.
In Air Traffic Control Services: Next year, States are expected to have established prescriptive work hour limits for air traffic controllers, while FRMS regulations remain optional and can be established at any time. However, the nature of the relationship between the Air Navigation Services Provider (ANSP) and the State will influence how the implementation of fatigue management regulations will unfold. In most cases, the State provides oversight of only one ANSP and although there is a current trend for privatisation, many of the ANSPs are fully or partially owned by the State.
In an industry sector that is often largely self-regulated, the distinction between a prescriptive fatigue management approach and FRMS may become blurred. However, a refocus on safety and not only organisational expediency or personal preference is likely to have substantial effects on the way controllers’ work schedules are built in ANSPs across the world. This is a “watch this space”.
Fatigue Management Guidance for ICAO States
The Manual for the Oversight of Fatigue Management Approaches (Doc 9966) received another update this year – Version 2 (Revised) – and an unedited version (in English only) will shortly replace the current manual available for download here. On this website you can also find the following:
- Fatigue Management Guide for Airline Operators (2nd Edition, 2015)
- Fatigue Management Guide for General Aviation Operators of Large and Turboject Aeroplane (1st Edition, 2016)
- Fatigue Management Guide for Air Traffic Service Providers (1st Edition, 2016)
- The Fatigue Management Guide for Helicopter Operators (1st Edition) is expected to be available later this year.
The Fatigue Management Guide for Helicopter Operators (1st Edition) is expected to be available later this year.
The author, Dr. Michelle Millar, is the Technical Officer (Human Factors) and the NGAP Program Manager at ICAO. She heads the ICAO FRMS Task Force and has been involved in the development of ICAO fatigue management provisions since 2009. Her academic background is in sleep, fatigue and performance.
Passenger traffic rises at FRA and Group airports worldwide
In February 2019, Frankfurt Airport (FRA) welcomed more than 4.5
million passengers – an increase of 4.3 percent year-on-year. During
the first two months of the year, FRA achieved passenger growth of
Aircraft movements climbed by 4.7 percent to 36,849 takeoffs and
landings in in the reporting month. Accumulated maximum takeoff
weights (MTOWs) rose by 4.6 percent to almost 2.3 million metric
tons. Reflecting the ongoing slowdown in global trade, cargo
throughput (airfreight + airmail) contracted by 3.4 percent to
161,366 metric tons.
Group airports in Fraport’s international portfolio continued their
positive performance in February 2019. Ljubljana Airport (LJU) in
Slovenia served 105,470 passengers, a gain of 6.3 percent. In
Brazil, combined traffic at Fortaleza (FOR) and Porto Alegre (POA)
airports increased by 15.8 percent to 1.2 million passengers.
Fraport’s Greek regional airports recorded overall growth of 13.6
percent to 588,433 passengers. The busiest airports included
Thessaloniki (SKG) with 368,119 passengers (up 24.2 percent), Chania
(CHQ) on the island of Crete with 47,661 passengers (up 19.6
percent), and Rhodes (RHO) with 46,331 passengers (down 13.0
In Peru, Lima Airport (LIM) saw traffic grow by 4.6 percent to some
1.8 million passengers. The two Bulgarian airports of Varna (VAR) and
Burgas (BOJ), combined, recorded a slight gain of 0.9 percent to
61,580 passengers. Antalya Airport (AYT) in Turkey served 766,068
passengers, up 10.4 percent. Pulkovo Airport (LED) in St. Petersburg,
Russia, grew by 13.5 percent to about 1.1 million passengers. Traffic
at Xi’an Airport (XIY) in China advanced by 6.8 percent to 3.7
Frankfurt Airport (FRA) welcomed nearly 4.7 million passengers in
January 2019, thus starting the year with 2.3 percent traffic growth.
Without strike and weather-related flight cancellations, passenger
traffic at FRA would have grown by about 4.3 percent.
Aircraft movements climbed by 2.3 percent to 37,676 takeoffs and
landings in the reporting month. Maximum takeoff weights (MTOWs)
rose by 1.5 percent to about 2.4 million metric tons. Only cargo
(airfreight + airmail) posted a decline in January 2019, dropping by
4.3 percent to 163,332 metric tons. Decisive factors affecting cargo
traffic included weaker global trade and the resulting dip in demand.
Most of the airports in Fraport’s international portfolio also
achieved growth in January 2019. Slovenia’s Ljubljana Airport (LJU)
served 103,653 passengers, a rise of 3.3 percent. The Brazilian
airports of Fortaleza (FOR) and Porto Alegre (POA) registered
combined traffic of almost 1.5 million passengers, up 10.5 percent
Total traffic for the 14 Greek regional airports reached 617,885
passengers, resulting in a 12.3 percent surge. The busiest airports
included Thessaloniki (SKG) with 388,309 passengers, up 25.4 percent;
Chania (CHQ) with 50,949 passengers, up 17.8 percent; and Rhodes
(RHO) with 50,809 passengers, down 13.4 percent.
Lima Airport (LIM) in Peru, South America, saw traffic increase by
5.0 percent to around 1.9 million passengers. On the Bulgarian Black
Sea coast, the Twin Star airports of Burgas (BOJ) and Varna (VAR)
registered a total of 67,924 passengers, declining 6.8 percent. On
the Turkish Rivera, Antalya Airport (AYT) received 877,161 passengers
and recorded a 9.6 percent jump in traffic. Russia’s St. Petersburg
Airport (LED) advanced by 14.0 percent to some 1.2 million
passengers. In China, Xi’an Airport (XIY) recorded a 13.9 percent
gain to almost 3.8 million passengers
Frankfurt Airport (FRA) served more than 69.5 million passengers in 2018, thus posting a new record high in the airport’s history.
Compared to 2017, traffic at Germany’s largest airport grew by some 5 million passengers or 7.8 percent. This strong growth resulted from the launch of more routes to new destinations from FRA and from airlines increasing flight frequencies.
Commenting on the 2018 traffic figures, Fraport AG’s executive board chairman Stefan Schulte said: “The previous year has proved once again that there continues to be great demand for flying. In Frankfurt, we have achieved the highest absolute passenger growth in our history. This underscores Frankfurt Airport’s position as one of Europe’s leading aviation hubs. At the same time, the extraordinary growth in air traffic overall has caused major challenges for us and the entire aviation sector. Together with our partners, we are taking efforts to restore and enhance punctuality and reliability in air
In full-year 2018, aircraft movements at FRA rose by 7.7 percent to 512,115 takeoffs and landings in 2018. Accumulated maximum takeoff weights (MTOWs) also increased by 5.1 percent to some 31.6 million metric tons. Cargo throughput (airfreight + airmail) posted a slight 0.7 percent decline to about 2.2 million metric tons, reflecting growing uncertainties in global trade, particularly during the second half of the year.
In December 2018, more than 4.9 million passengers traveled via Frankfurt Airport – an increase of 7.8 percent compared to December 2017. Aircraft movements climbed by 9.0 percent to 38,324 takeoffs and landings, while accumulated MTOWs grew by 6.5 percent to about 2.4 million metric tons. Cargo throughput (airmail + airfreight) expanded by 1.9 percent to 183,674 metric tons in the reporting month.
Airports in Fraport’s international portfolio also reported noticeable growth in 2018. CEO Schulte commented: “In addition to Frankfurt, most of our Group airports worldwide also achieved new passenger records last year. We continue to invest in the airports of our international portfolio, thus ensuring their long-term development. To create additional capacity, we are currently carrying out major expansion projects at our Group airports, particularly in Greece, Brazil and Peru.”
In Slovenia, Ljubljana Airport (LJU) posted a 7.7 percent traffic increase to over 1.8 million passengers in 2018. Combined traffic at the two Brazilian airports of Fortaleza (FOR) and Porto Alegre (POA) rose by 7.0 percent to some 14.9 million passengers. Traffic at the 14 Greek regional airports advanced by 8.9 percent to a total of almost 29.9 million passengers. The three busiest gateways in Fraport’s Greek portfolio were Thessaloniki Airport (SKG) with some 6.7 million passengers (up 7.1 percent), Rhodes Airport (RHO) witharound 5.6 million passengers (up 5.0 percent), and Corfu Airport (CFU) where traffic soared by 15.3 percent to nearly 3.4 million passengers.
Lima Airport (LIM) in the capital of Peru welcomed more than 22.1 million passengers in 2018, representing an increase of 7.3 percent.
On the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, the Twin Star airports of Varna (VAR) and Burgas (BOJ) closed the year with combined traffic growth of 12.2 percent to about 5.6 million passengers. Antalya Airport (AYT) in Turkey saw traffic advance by 22.5 percent to almost 32.3 million passengers. Pulkovo Airport (LED) in St. Petersburg, Russia served more than 18.1 million passengers – an increase of 12.4 percent. Some 44.7 million passengers used Xi’an Airport (XIY) inChina, up 6.7 percent.
Frankfurt Airport welcomed around 5.24 million passengers in November
2018, a growth of 4.7 percent year-on-year. This development was
driven by European traffic (up 6.1 percent) as well as
intercontinental traffic (up 4.3 percent). The cumulative growth in
passenger numbers for the first eleven months of the current year was
In a similar vein, aircraft movements in November increased by 5.3
percent to 41,192 takeoffs and landings. Accumulated maximum takeoff
weights (MTOWs) rose by 3.3 percent to around 2.5 million metric
tons. Only the cargo throughput (airfreight + airmail) declined in
November, falling by 2.1 percent to around 196,537 million metric
tons in response to the growing uncertainty in global trade.
The international airports in Fraport’s portfolio also enjoyed
largely positive development in November. While Ljubljana Airport
(LJU) in Slovenia saw a slight decline of 3.3 percent to 117,554
passengers, the Brazilian airports in Fortaleza (FOR) and Porto
Alegre (POA) reported significant growth of 10.8 percent to around
1.3 million passengers. The 14 regional airports in Greece saw an
overall growth of 12.8 percent to 726,159 passengers. The three
airports in the Greek portfolio with the most traffic were
Thessaloniki (SKG) with 428,897 passengers (up 16.6 percent), Rhodes
(RHO) with 68,041 passengers (minus 9.7 percent to) and Chania (CHQ)
with 59,053 passengers (up 14.6 percent). Lima Airport (LIM) in Peru
grew by 6.7 percent to about 1.8 million passengers. A total of
68,246 passengers used the Bulgarian Twin Star airports of Varna
(VAR) and Burgas (BOJ), down 6.8 percent. Antalya Airport (AYT) again
enjoyed substantial growth of 26.9 percent to around 1.2 million
passengers. Growing passenger numbers were also reported at Pulkovo
Airport (LED) in St. Petersburg with around 1.3 million passengers
(up 18.1 percent) and Xi’an (XIY) in China with around 3.6 million
passengers (up 4.8 percent)
The future Terminal 3 at Frankfurt Airport is one of the largest privately funded construction projects underway in Europe. Currently, the site comprises a huge excavated hole where the foundations for the central terminal building are being laid. Fraport’s visitor service team has responded to enormous public interest in the project by launching a Maxi Tour that focuses on Terminal 3. The highpoint of the 90-minute bus ride around Frankfurt Airport’s apron is a stop at a platform with a fantastic view of the construction site.
The Terminal 3 excursion also showcases other fascinating aspects of apron and airfield activities. For example, participants experience takeoffs and landings from close-up at the Center and South Runways. A guide is present throughout, relating fascinating facts and figures, including insights into the construction project. Terminal 3 is scheduled to open in 2023. It will include three new piers, with capacity for more than 20 million passengers annually, and will be setting new standards in terms of its architectural design.
Due to safety regulations, participants in the Terminal 3 tour must be at least 16 years of age. The price per person is 15 euros. The tour can be booked for individuals or groups. An ideal addition is a visit to the viewing platform in Terminal 2. The platform is open all year round.