For Vsplat Re: comments below


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Vsplat,

I was going to respond in the computers/pilots thread, but this is a separate issue... and it crops up from time to time as well.... I've written and deleted responses twice now, and finally came to the conclusion that my uncertainty was real enough... so discussion may help?

In your response to Boestar - where I agree with you on almost all points - you included this:

"Wear and tear on the body is worse than shift work. I have done both. The problem with flying is at the end of the cycle, when your body is really screwed up, you have the most demanding phase of flight."

If that first statement is true, I'd like to understand why? ...and if not, I'd like to help you understand why.

The "shift work" we do is (for many of us) a steady change every 4 days from nights at work, to days off... It's as though we're moving to a time zone as far off our previous one as possible - 12 hours change every 4 days, continuously... for months at a time... until some of our 4 weeks/yr holidays show up.

We never have a chance to get used to one before moving to the other... the effect on some of us (it seems most prevalent in those of us over 40) is to guarantee we're never able to make even part power. Tiredness, fatigue, the fog of what-day/night-is-this? is always present. It only varies somewhat based on time since last nap or since last coffee. We have no protections built in CARS for this, nor in our contract. In fact, due to recent "concessions", many of us would no longer get paid if we do as we're obliged by fitness for duty concerns... so we can't afford to.

One example of that predicament...:

Last week, one rather ugly 46 yr old, 20 yr AME working for one of Canada's major airlines... was unable to sleep after his second night. Unable to afford a night off (so soon after missing 3 days for a flu and not getting paid for those), he presented himself at work on the third night and attempted to declare himself unfit for his normal duties, hoping he could be used somehow in some manner that would require less thought and not involve risk... However, being a licenced body in an environment where licenced bodies were badly needed, he was assigned en engine to look after, on a wide body 'A' check. After bumping his head several times and finding himself spending too much time wondering exactly what he was doing, he decided to finish off some of the more mundane "servicing" type tasks, and remove himself from the potential risk... knowing all the while that even driving to work was wrong. So he accepted the money loss and headed home...

The following night, after having managed to enjoy a lovely 3 hours of sleep ( for reasons unknown to me, that's all his mind would allow), he returned to work and was thankfully able to limit his activities to looking after paperwork. ...until morning when he reported, as previously directed, to the simulator for some training. Having managed to somehow not make himself appear to be a moron in the sim, he finally returned home for 4 hours of sleep so he could awake later that day and help his son celebrate his birthday... He wasn't much use to his son.

Now it's tempting to believe the following 4 days would be days of recovery, but now he's 12 hours off again, so the wear continues as he tries to assume the role of a dad and a husband during the day, while seeing if he can get some decent sleep at night... again, sometime before he normalizes to that schedule, he's back to nights at work.... and so on.... until one or more of those 4 weeks/yr come around.

Most of us show up for work tired and spend the night fighting it off. Come morning, when many heads are hanging rather low, it's time to kick into high gear somehow to try to get the airplanes all buttoned up, tested and leak checked, and off to the gate.

I add that thought in response to your comment: " at the end of the cycle, when your body is really screwed up, you have the most demanding phase of flight."

Now I'm not whining... I've heard other pilots make comments that made me think that either I didn't quite understand the "wear and tear" they endure, or they don't quite understand what we go through... so I thought it might be a good time to try to clarify, and see if one of us can come away with some better understanding?

I know something of the demands of flying... I know you need to be sharp and make correct decisions in a fixed time frame... but I'm hoping you don't ever find yourself having to do that while feeling anything like that AME I was talking about! You're quite right, we do have the luxury of time to pause and reflect, and re-examine, or consult... If we didn't, due to our somewhat diminished state of whatever-you'd-call-it (I'd like to speak of endorphins and natural body chemicals that deal with circadian rhythms and brain function, but I'm out of my league there), ...we might be dangerous.

Anyway... that's an attempt to clearly explain part of the "wear and tear" factor for us... Obviously, not all of us are effected to the same degree as that 46 yr old, nor is he always like that... there are times he might manage part power, but almost never full power... Some are perhaps worse, and some are better. Younger folks tend to have more resilience of course. ..and then, not all will be as responsible as they should about removing themselves from their duties when they're unfit...

Are there routes, and flying schedules that can equate to a 12 hour change in time zone, every 4 days, non stop, without change, for months at a time? Don't you manage to get recovery time after one of the long haul mind muckers? .. Is the wear and tear really worse, or is it that because of what you do, you feel it's effect is worse?

smile.gif I was going to say something like, "it doesn't really matter for which of us it's worse", but then thought how that might appear somewhat less than genuine, given the preceding muttering.

...Screw it, that really doesn't matter... I can see that, but I do have a hunch there are some among your gang, maybe including you, who don't get the full picture of how we're mucked about, and I'd rather you did. I think if you all knew, since how we perform most certainly can effect how you have to perform, you might be inclined to help us fix it. Whether or not it's worse for you or for us is irrelevant, but understanding can only be helpful.

I can't calculate the number of errors committed because of fatigue, nor the frequency, but it's not hard to imagine they could be greatly reduced with better fatigue management within our group. Less errors from our side equates to less work, and less risk for you and all who fly. Between TC, the bean counters at airlines, and tired AME's who are unable to represent themselves on the union level, we don't seem to be able to muster up any decent means of fatigue management. I strongly believe we ought to.

... for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is this issue alone, I think there will come a day when pilots and AME's are more closely aligned in support of one another. We need each other. The sooner we each recognize the depth and the truth of that, the better... for flight safety as well as ourselves.

Cheers,

Mitch

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More Eloquently put than my statement and I wholeheartedly agree.

The Sooner the better.

I should be around when you are on shift this week. I'll try to drop by bay 8 for a visit.

B

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Guest directlaw

"but I'm hoping you don't ever find yourself having to do that while feeling anything like that AME I was talking about!"

Yes we do.

"I can't calculate the number of errors committed because of fatigue, nor the frequency, but it's not hard to imagine they could be greatly reduced with better fatigue management within our group. Less errors from our side equates to less work, and less risk for you and all who fly."

Sounds like any overseas pilot

... for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is this issue alone, I think there will come a day when pilots and AME's are more closely aligned in support of one another. We need each other. The sooner we each recognize the depth and the truth of that, the better... for flight safety as well as ourselves.

I just became more aligned.

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One down...Thousands to go.

Now off to bed after a long night of making...ummmm...flying thingys work...YYYAAWWWNN..

B

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I nominate Mitch as our "a Fatigue Risk Management delegate" !!!

We need more people who can so clearly explain the ins and outs of working night shift!!

On another note.... Transport Canada is getting ready to implement a a Fatigue Risk Management system where each company will have to implement some sort of system to deal with fatigue. Wonder how that will turn out.

Eric

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Indeed Eric, it will be interesting to see how this fatigue management program will work out. It's too important not to try, I just hope that the program managers will treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

Mitch, you have very clearly described how tough it is in the world of the night shifter, bouncing between body clock time zones every few days. I know lots of freight pilots who've done a similar schedule for months on end, and it's pretty nasty. I did it for a very brief period, and I vowed to avoid it like the plague for the rest of my career. You and a good number of your colleagues don't have the luxury of that choice.

The fact that you never change locations is irrelevant, your body clock takes just as big of a hit as the pilots who fly ultra long haul. The difference is it's pretty tough for the long hauler to do more than two of those in a month. Where it does get tough for them is when they're assigned shorter sectors in between the long hauls in order to make up their required number of block hours for a month.

One thing you mentioned Mitch goes directly to the problem with fatigue. You said:

I know something of the demands of flying... I know you need to be sharp and make correct decisions in a fixed time frame... but I'm hoping you don't ever find yourself having to do that while feeling anything like that AME I was talking about! You're quite right, we do have the luxury of time to pause and reflect, and re-examine, or consult... If we didn't, due to our somewhat diminished state of whatever-you'd-call-it (I'd like to speak of endorphins and natural body chemicals that deal with circadian rhythms and brain function, but I'm out of my league there), ...we might be dangerous.

You are quite right. The problem is, a person who is suffering from fatigue, is much more likely to miss a significant mistake made by themselves or their work mates, simply because they lack the accute judgement that would normally catch the mistake. They are also less likely to recognize the effects of their fatigued state. It's not too hard to do when you're working on a simple low risk task. But as the pressure builds up and what's left of your brain needs 100% of its' energy just to complete the task, there's no spare neurons left over to ring the bell and warn you that fatigue is affecting your judgement.

Mitch, don't think you aren't making decisions in a fixed time frame, because I can almost gaurantee you are at some point. There's always pressure on the engineering folks to make the schedule. That pressure may not (and should not) be overt, but it's definitely there.

I admire your ability to step aside from the job when you're knowingly fatigued. It's a tough call to make, especially when there's bills to pay with those smaller pay cheques you've accepted just to keep your job. I suspect that some folks have a harder time making that call. I just hope there's someone like you watching over them who can pull them aside and tell them it's time to lock up their tools before something bad happens.

Jeff

Edited by J.O.
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Great post Mitch. As someone who works 5 on 5 off shifts I can relate to everything you have said there. No matter how we plan things there are always times when it catches up with us. When it comes to that point it's time to put the tools down for a while and do something else rather than keep going and possibly make an error.

Pilots do not have the opportunity to put the stick aside and go for a break like we do in maintenance. However they also do not work the shifts to the same extent we do. One's body never really gets used to rotating shifts no matter how long we do them.

In both cases, pilots and maintenance, any error can be fatal for hundreds of people at once. The only difference is that on the ground we are more likely to continue living if it happens. But then would I want to keep doing what I was doing knowing that an error I made while fatigued caused a fatal accident. We should all know when it's time to put things away for a while.

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Mitch, great post, you wrote:

"Are there routes, and flying schedules that can equate to a 12 hour change in time zone, every 4 days, non stop, without change, for months at a time?"

A very simplistic answer would be "NO"

The computer bidding of schedules would be a part of the reason why and also the fact that unless you were # 1 on an airplane this is almost impossible. Factor in annual occurences of simulator, and other training items and it becomes even more difficult.

You hit the nail right on the head and if one does that type of work I think the best way to have it is in a rigid pattern( eg. 3 days 3 nights 3 off ).

You do get used to the many time zones and working of nights, as you do with your shift work. I will throw this out in hopes of furthering the discussion however, and it is the biggest complaint I have with Mr. Milton's book (which I believe to be a must read), and it is augmentation.

Contrary to both Mr. Milton and YYC I/C who think that dozing for dollars and yawning for yen, are a fantastic waste of time money and other resources. Augmentation of flight crews is a serious issue which is not being taken very seriously both at the company and ministerial levels of the federal government. As you well know in trying to prepare for your allnight shifts and trying to catch a few winks in the afternoon or early evening it is just not that simple. Outside issues are very distracting, whether it is kids, the phone, whatever. Couple that with the fact that most people find it difficult to sleep in the middle of the day.

Best example I can think of is a for instance that I am overseas and have an awful sleep, waking up at 04:00 local and whatever I try I cannot get back to sleep. This does happen to every overseas crew member on occasion, as I am sure it happens to everybody dealing with shiftwork.

Problem is what is the crewmember to do when faced with a 12 or 14 hour duty day on little rest, and the CARS are pretty clear about fatigue ? ? ? I for one can easily imagine the management response when I call crew sked from some far away place and tell them I am booking off due to fatigue, adn at the very least the outbound flight will have to be delayed if not cancelled.

To me having an augmented crew makes this decision pretty easy, knowing I will have an opportunity for a little shut eye before flying an approach into potentially adverse weather at the other end. The other factor here that tends to be overlooked is that having an augmented flight provides an extra trained set of eyes on the flight deck and that is a priceless addition at any time.

Kinda long winded, but then again I do not believe this to be an easy topic to discuss very simply.

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I am actually at work right now and had a louzy sleep today. I am feeling very fatigued. Fortunately I have the support of another manager who can carry more of the load than normal and leave me for the more mundane tasks.

I have heard that TC will impliment a 15 hour maximun duty day for Mechanics. We already have that rule in YYZ.

B

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Evening all. Interesting thread. Sorry I couldn't join sooner, but I have been on the road, still am.

Mitch, I agree with everything you have said. This is not an 'us versus them' issue. I am sorry to see that some on this line see it that way.

As for being aligned, I hope to God we already are aligned in our thinking, or we have a huge problem much greater than pay.

This is not about who is better. I believe the initial thread was what goes into pilot pay. There is no doubt that poor shift scheduling, especially in the change direction you cite, can be devastating on health. Fatigue is a huge issue as we are seeing with the medical profession and their recent concern over staff members, interns and residents.

Back to the initial thread, this is about factors in pay. Time shifting is not just a factor of long haul flying with bags of recovery time. In fact, some might agree with me that the layover at a far flung destination does more to completely screw up the body clock than they ever expected. Many long haul crews report disorientation for days after one pairing. I know, shiftwork can do this too, but the problem is that the pilot has to climb back into an airplane after a day or two off, and ace their clock again.

Add to this the miracle of 24 hour reserve and you have the makings of a pretty messed up body. A few of these shocks a month and we can start to see nasty effects from body chemistry disruption.

Short haul pilots are not immune, either. One pairing recently had us leave YYZ at noon, depart down east the next morning at 0530 LOCAL, back out toward YOW with an 1000 departure, then back east. These weren't all particularly short days, either. Of course, through in some weather, etc. I think you get the picture. For short haulers, a 16 to 18 day paid month plus up to three extra days for recurrent simulators and annual training thrown in for good measure and, well I think you get the picture.

I am not saying pilots are better. Never have. The discussion was about money, more to the point at what pay is the job worth it. I believe that when AC gets serious about recalls and new hires, when folks take a hard look at what the 'new' pay rates are, we will see folks bypass the airline that would have come a few years back.

As for fatigue management for anyone attached to a safety related job, I am already on record as recommending duty limits and proper rostering practices for all such jobs, including yours. We already have data comparing fatigue to chemically-induced impairment. No professional, be they Doctor, AME, Flight Attendant or Pilot, should ever have to go to work in this state.

But you might be suprised where some of the resistance is coming from. Within some of the international unions, there are those who do not want to mess with overtime or place their 'brother' unions on the outs. In that way, I guess we are once again aligned. Our greatest threat is our lack of unity in tackling the issue.

I hope this helps. If not, please let me know and I will try to check in when I can.

All the best

Vs

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Thanks for the response Vsplat.... and thanks all, for your comments...

...didn't want it to seem like I hadn't seen this... I'm almost embarrased to say I'm too tired to add anything now, but I really am. cool.gif

I'll read again and respond when I'm off work and able to think a bit better.

Cheers,

Mitch

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Hi Mitch, I hope by the time you're reading this you've had a chance to recharge a bit.

Reflecting on this thread a bit, I wanted to add something. I believe that it is fully possible, with cruel or incompetent shift scheduling practices, to create a more dangerous situation than flight crews face. The situation that you are describing makes me wonder who is doing the scheduling and whether or not you have an OSH case. Surely, the first time some poor exhausted person powers hydraulics with a buddy downstairs, everyone all the way up the food chain is going to have their policies tested.

But that will be too late, won't it? What do your OSH reps say?

Cheers

Vs

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Hello all...

The other thing that one must look at is the overtime issue. On top of the fact that you are working rotating shifts, if you want a little extra you work O.T. The problem with that is even though there are contract restrictions limiting the number of hours you can work to 104 in a quarter, AC regularly ignores that rule.

We are short staffed on the ramp, as they are in MTC, and they won't hire more because it is cheaper to pay the overtime.

There are individuals who are regularly working up to 6 doubles in a row. How does that make for safe individuals. There are several individuals that I know of who quarter after quarter work over 250 hours of overtime, yet the company allows it,,,,,

If it is good for the company.

It is a dangerous place out there, yet the rules in place to limit those hazards are regularly ignored.

If the Company won't protect you, then one must protect themselves.

Iceman

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At JAZZ in YYZ the Mechanics are limited to a 15 hour duty day. This is to prevent people driving home when they are too tired and could get hurt. The company would be liable in such an incident and we don't need that. The guys don't like it much but they come in on their days off.

B

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I came back.... ..or as we used to say in the cab biz: "Back in the hack" wink.gif

Amazing the difference a few days rest can make for the ability to put thoughts to the keyboard. smile.gif

Ok, First:

- Directlaw,

Re: "Yes we do"

Kripes mate, that's truly frightening! Driving a car in that state is unwise... (and illegal!)... I think I've found a new reason not to ever fly overseas!

Re: "I just became more aligned."

If you mean that just how it sounds, then great! I suspect there are a lot of pilots who don't easily see any potential benefit for their side in any kind of alliance between pilots and AME's, but you don't have to think too long to see the symbiotic nature of the relationship. Our performance affects your need to perform; our well being can affect your well being. Our ability to effect positive change could be greatly enhanced by friends in high places. smile.gif

- Jeff,

Re: "a person who is suffering from fatigue, is much more likely to miss a significant mistake made by themselves or their work mates, simply because they lack the accute judgement that would normally catch the mistake. They are also less likely to recognize the effects of their fatigued state."

Exactly. I have no idea if there are people who dedicate their time to "risk management" or if it's just a part of any manager's job, but if one were to spend any time compiling stats on errors committed simply because those performing the tasks were fatigued, I do believe the figures would be somewhat shocking. I realize it'd be a very difficult thing to do since there are so many other variables at play... but all one has to do to understand is stay awake several hours past whatever time their body tells them it's time for sleep, and then try playing a game of chess... or any task that involves complex, multi-dimensional thought. Heck, some of us find ourselves putting airplanes back together when our mind is in such a state that we'd have a tough time with a game of tic-tac-toe... That just ain't right!

You're right to point out the time pressures on our decision making that do exist. It's rarely the same sort of do-it-right-and-do-it-now, time sensitive decision that pilots have to deal with, but as much as we may like to think we're going to take whatever time we need to "do it right", often the clock has already influenced our decisions. Frequently it's only after the bird has gone that we realize what part that clock played in our decision making processes.

...and I'm afraid Conehead is right on the money; Hardly anyone will accept the loss of pay that would hit them if they locked their toolboxes whenever they're too fatigued to do their jobs properly.

- Eric,

I'm hopeful that something meaningful could come from regulatory think-tank processes, but I'm not holding my breath. For one thing, as I've read elsewhere, our own union leadership is part of the process and one of the things they like to fight for is a lack of constraints on overtime... It's a conflict of interests. On the one hand there are people like me asking for reasonable restrictions that prevent fatigue, and on the other there are hungry mouths to feed... For me, it's not about money, it's about safety, though safety certainly can be at risk because of the money concerns. I don't generally work overtime -- since we no longer get paid for it ( a point that perhaps Iceman may have forgotten?), many of us don't nowadays, -- only when it's a matter of people waiting at the gate for an airplane that I could get to them sooner if I personally stayed, will I consider it - money or not. I've always worked like that. By the end of my shift, I'm frequently about as intoxicated in equivalent terms as one who's had a couple glasses of rum. ...and so are most of my colleagues ...whether they'll admit to it or not!

If this Fatigue Risk Management stuff from TC actually puts the emphasis on safety and ignores the push from labour leaders to allow for bags of overtime when desired, while balancing the true needs of the companies rather than their wants, I'll be a happy man, but as I said, I'm not holding my breath.

- Sky High,

I know it's not nice to think like this, but I cannot imagine life after having made an error that caused the death of anyone! As I've said before, I think I'd rather have been in the airplane, than survive and have to live with it... I'm not at all sure that I could. sad.gif

- AIP,

Re: "To me having an augmented crew makes this decision pretty easy, knowing I will have an opportunity for a little shut eye before flying an approach into potentially adverse weather at the other end. The other factor here that tends to be overlooked is that having an augmented flight provides an extra trained set of eyes on the flight deck and that is a priceless addition at any time."

It's a "no-brainer", isn't it?.... Why there's any question is beyond me! The line that comes to mind is an old one, but as right as rain: "You think safety is expensive? Try an accident!"

But those darn bean counters haven't had to count enough accident costs lately it seems...

... and finaly,

- Vsplat,

Re: "This is not an 'us versus them’ issue."

Absolutely it isn't! In fact, I've hoped we could each see the similarities in the issue for each of us and recognize the potential for improvement through a combined effort. Our interests are your interests. Flight safety is the issue for both of us.

I know I keep mentioning this notion of combined efforts, or alignment of our goals, and the potential for improvement, ...but it genuinely does strike me as an obvious need that - but for what have become ridiculous pre-existing conditions of collective bargaining, and no doubt some ego and some jealousy - could have come to pass some time ago. I'm no organizer, and I have no doubt I'm missing some ideas of what roadblocks could exist, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the potential for gain in terms of flight safety. .... not to mention bargaining power. (perhaps that's the biggest obstacle? - Management at airlines would be in quite a pickle if you folks were to ever support us) [since it now comes to mind... just for the record, do not count me among those who have notions that AME's should earn what pilots earn.]

Re: "But you might be suprised where some of the resistance is coming from. Within some of the international unions, there are those who do not want to mess with overtime or place their ‘brother’ unions on the outs. In that way, I guess we are once again aligned. Our greatest threat is our lack of unity in tackling the issue."

Bingo, on all counts! Again, flight safety concerns must override monetary concerns! For us as well as for the companies. ... but neither can we expect people to always make correct decisions while the red in their bank book is overflowing and a carrot is dangling. ... especially when their judgement is impaired! That's why we need the rules to be right.

Re: "What do your OSH reps say?"

I'll confess I've not asked. However, I do believe I know the answer without asking. They'd have to tow the line... "if you're too fatigued to work you'll have to stop and rest before even driving home." Any other official response would put them in a field of quicksand. Again, Conehead answered it best: "Not gonna happen."

One guy I know has letters from two different doctors (one GP, and one shrink) stating he should not be working midnight shifts due to his inability to adjust.... The company he works for has received them both, but has ignored them... I've often wondered how that might effect their liability, should he make a mistake that hurts anyone while he's working the night shift? The company is undoubtedly afraid of opening a flood gate for others who have the same troubles.

Obviously fatigue is something of a subjective thing... It's not something that effects one the same as another, nor does it come as readily to one as it does to another... It certainly is real though, and it's effects are measurable, and the hazards it presents to flight safety are preventable. Discussing it here obviously won't correct any problems by itself, but if it can lead to a better understanding, it's a good start.

...my apologies to anyone I've ignored here... not always, but sometimes a lack of response only indicates agreement. wink.gif

Cheers,

Mitch

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