The role of human fatigue in aviation accidents and incidents is hardly a new issue. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) placed “fatigue” on its Most Wanted List (a list of most wanted transportation safety improvements) in 1990 and has since continued to advocate research, education and regulatory changes regarding “the effects of fatigue on persons performing critical functions . . . including flight crews, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers.”1 In recent years, the issue of fatigue has continued to make even more headlines as a suspected significant factor in many transportation accidents. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has addressed the issue by commencing work on a “fatigue risk management system” and sponsoring a fatigue management symposium in 2008, among other efforts. Additionally, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed its version of the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009, which, if ultimately signed into law, would impose several requirements on regional airlines and direct the FAA to “implement new pilot flight and duty time rules and fatigue risk management plans.”
Media headlines and government efforts notwithstanding, the potential for and perils of fatigue are all too clear. Modern society operates around the clock. But this 24-hour requirement challenges the human brain and body by degrading the quantity and quality of sleep, disrupting the body clock and creating fatigue. These factors take a toll on alertness, performance, productivity and safety. The bottom line is that our society — at both the organizational and individual levels — continually pays a high price for fatigue-related risks that result in errors, incidents and accidents.
At the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA’s) 62nd Aviation Meeting and Convention in Orlando, Florida last year, the United States Aircraft Insurance Group (USAIG) announced that it has teamed up with Alertness Solutions to provide the aviation community with the first sciencebased fatigue and alertness management solution designed specifically to reduce risk for aviation professionals.
The program, known as the Z-Coach Program, is unique to the aviation industry because it focuses on the individual, providing practical tools for each person to understand and manage their personal fatigue thresholds and levels of alertness. It coaches the user on how to implement simple but effective countermeasures to meet the challenges posed by stress, irregular work hours and the constant disruption of normal sleep habits — all things aviation professionals deal with on a daily basis.
The Z-Coach Program is Web-based, available 24/7 and features straightforward, low-effort implementation, making it accessible to employees who are geographically dispersed. It establishes a secure, private relationship between the individual user and Z-Coach, and provides a comprehensive program that serves as an ongoing resource rather than a one-time class. The program is self-paced, allowing individuals to tailor its benefits to their own interests and needs; and highly personalized, addressing individual differences and complexity of issues.
This new way of thinking about fatigue management is the collaborative effort between USAIG and Alertness Solutions — two well-respected companies in their fields that share a common safety vision.
USAIG, America’s First Name in Aviation Insurance® is a group, or pool, of individual insurance companies that collectively functions as a worldwide insurance market for all types of aviation and aerospace accounts. Under the management of United States Aviation Underwriters, Inc. (USAU), USAIG has long been a staunch advocate of aviation safety and an active participant in a wide range of industry efforts to further improve the safety records of all aviation community segments. Since its founding by World War I pilots, USAIG has been as much a member of the aviation community as the insurance industry. The group has worked closely with many of aviation’s most dynamic individuals and organizations to develop the insurance products and unique safety programs needed to properly protect all segments of the aviation community against the catastrophic loss potential inherent in an aviation operation.
Z-Coach inventor, Dr. Mark Rosekind, president and chief scientist of Alertness Solutions, has spent two decades studying the science of sleep and fatigue management. Dr. Rosekind has gained international recognition for translating sleep and circadian (body clock) science into practical, effective strategies that enhance performance, safety and health. On September 30, 2009, the White House nominated Dr. Rosekind to be a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and if confirmed, his term would expire December 31, 2014.
Recognizing that “fatigue is a complex issue,” Dr. Rosekind is proud to assert that: The Z-Coach Program offers a personal program that looks at physical condition, cultural attitudes and how you work. It is computer-based and is tailored to the individual user. Anybody that is critical to 24-hour operations could benefit. There are multiple levels of achievement empowering users to develop strategies and tools to beat fatigue.
In commenting on the collaboration, David L. McKay, president and COO of USAIG, remarked:
I am absolutely sure that some element of fatigue has contributed in some way to every operational aviation accident. Every pilot knows from their earliest training experience that alcohol and aviation don’t mix, yet the industry has been slow to acknowledge that the physiological impact of fatigue on pilots, maintenance technicians, schedulers, dispatchers and ramp personnel can be just as debilitating as having several drinks. USAIG feels a responsibility to engage in this critical safety debate by moving fatigue and what to do about it to the top of its safety agenda. Dr. Rosekind’s science-based approach to fatigue management is here now, provides practical, real world fatigue countermeasures and we believe, if widely deployed and adopted, will have a major impact on improving aviation safety.
On October 2, 2009, USAIG and Alertness Solutions hosted a kickoff event in the Atlanta, Georgia hangar of The Home Depot. Dr. Rosekind presented the Z-Coach Program to a group of over 50 aviation professionals. “I know my team members were impressed…and are looking forward to using the Z-Coach Program as an additional resource for managing their own fatigue and alertness,” remarked Senior Director, Flight Operations of The Home Depot Bill McBride, CAM. Aviation Department Manager of Boyd Aviation Eddie Yell commented, “We are looking forward to implementing the Z-Coach Webbased program to further our knowledge of fatigue management, its impact on pilot performance and to provide the safest possible flight operation for our passengers.”
USAIG has a remarkable 81-year history of and commitment to aviation safety, and is an active participant in a wide range of industry efforts to further improve the safety records of all segments of the aviation community. USAIG is making Z-Coach available to its corporate and turbine charter operator policy holders on beneficial terms, set forth in greater detail in their policies.
For more information on Alertness Solutions, please visit their website at: www.alertnesssolutions.com.
For additional information about USAIG, please visit their website at www.usaig.com.