Preventing Airline Crashes by Preventing Fatigue

All opinions expressed are my own and are not representative of my current employer nor past employers. 

On February 12th, 2009 around 10:17pm EST, Continental Connection Flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air crashed on an instrument approach into Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in Buffalo, New York.  45 Passengers, 2 Pilots, 2 Flight Attendants and one person on the ground lost their lives because the Captain reacted to the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400’s stick shaker by pulling up instead of pushing.

In October 2004, a BAE J-32, Jetstream, was conducting a non-precision approach into Kirksville and they crashed.  The flight was 5966 operated by Corporate Airlines dba American Connection. Several factors played into this, including the pilots being on duty for 14 and a half hours.  Both flight crew members woke up before 5am in order to be ready for work and this was their 6thflight of the day.  A non-precision approach requires both flight crew members to be fully aware of their surroundings and able to think logically; however, they couldn’t.  Because these flight crews were not able to act professionally, think logically, and conduct their operation with accordance to the Standard Operating Procedures of the airline, it resulted in 13 fatalities and two serious injuries.

And finally, an accident happened when a pilot slept only one hour in the 32 hours preceding the crash of Delta Connection Flight 6448 operated by Shuttle America.  The Embraer ERJ-170 overran the runway in Cleveland, Ohio which, thankfully, did not result in any fatalities.   The Captain did not notify Shuttle America of his fatigued state because of one reason: punishment.  The captain had been notified by the company that he had an excessive amount of sick calls and that he would be subject to discipline, including termination, if he called in again.


All of these accidents are alike in one way; they all have some form of fatigue related symptom involved.  The National Transportation Safety Board since 1972, issued more than 117 fatigue-related recommendations to numerous industries with aviation having 32 of those recommendations.  Over 250 people have been killed in air carrier accidents that were investigated by the NTSB that were caused by the symptoms of fatigue. Fatigue related symptoms include delayed reactions, reduction in performance in both speed and accuracy, reduced situational awareness and, the most worrying, impaired logical reasoning.

The FAA has created and implemented part 117 in a way that requires both the company and the pilot to accept responsibility to mitigate fatigue. In September of 2010, the FAA published a Flightcrew Member Duty and Rest Requirements Notice of Proposed Rule Making, NPRM, which is required by federal law.  The NPRM received more than 8,000 responses which were all required to be reviewed.  The FAA made a significant number of changes from the original proposed rule to the final rule.

The final rule took several different factors into consideration, such as circadian rhythms and changes in time zones and many changes were made due to the public commenting period.  Part 117 only applies to 121 carriers and does not apply to operations which are cargo only. Part 117 contains several provisions including the fitness for duty affirmation, fatigue education and training, augmented and unaugmented operations, extensions and more.  All of these parts are important to understand and must be followed; however the majority falls on the carrier.

The rule requires several things, most notably the requirement that flight crew members receive 10 hours of rest; however, they only require 8 hours of rest opportunity.  The rules also set forth flight duty limitations which are calculated based on how many flight segments and the time of day that it was started, these calculations are found in the Flight Duty Period Table.  There are many different factors when calculating FDP, Flight Duty Period, and these can be found in Part 117.   While these are just several of the limits, I highly encourage all aviation safety professionals to be versed in all of Part 117.

Fatigue is a manageable problem; however, it requires that all of the parties involved follow the rules and accept the rules.  This requires the flight crew member to make Fitness for Duty Affirmations, and sleep during provided rest opportunities.  The carriers must provide the crew members with hotels and rest facilities that will allow for uninterrupted rest.  When pilots call out due to the fatigue,the carrier should have a fatigue review committee or program that conducts root cause analysis and makes recommendations to the company to change the location of hotels, send out awareness regarding requirements to sleep and who notify, as well as assist, pilots which may have problems that do not allow for adequate rest.

7 Steps To Create A Training Program

The biggest problem in today’s businesses is that new employees, business partners, and contractors are not trained.  The reason the majority of small businesses give is that they don’t have enough time needed to create the training program.  The amount of money wasted on inefficient employees and mistakes made because they weren’t trained outweighs the cost of the time to create a training program.  Below are seven steps to create the perfect training program.

Step 1: Assessing Your TraininNeeds

Before creating your training program, take a moment and write down from most important to least important the things that they need to know how to do.  Do they need to be taught how to dial a phone or how to operate the cash register?  For example a secretary needs to know how to answer the phone whereas a cashier needs to know how to operate the register.  The most important things that your employees should be trained on are the things that make you money.

Step 2: Training Goals That Are Measurable 

Everything we do in business should be measurable and training is no different.  Make sure you have a way to measure your training program. For example they should be able to operate the register after 6 hours of training and have basic knowledge of produce codes.  These goals can be measured by having a test at the end of the training and observing the cashiers while preforming their duties.  Just like we measure sales of a certain product or service we remove them if it is not working or try a different method this is especially used in step six where we evaluate the program.

Step 3: Designing The Materials 

Before you start creating the content of the training program, figure out how you want to present the materials and who you are teaching.  Can the information be conveyed through videos, a powerpoint or just by the demonstration technique.  Simple tasks such as stocking shelves can be taught through demonstration, whereas a scheduler for an airline is taught using powerpoint, videos, lectures and is given printed materials they can refer back too after training.

Step 4: Developing The Program

This can be an outline that an instructor uses, powerpoint, videos, and hands on materials that the employees can refer to during the training and after.  Try to keep all of your materials along the same line if you give an outline for the majority of the training you should do it for the entire program, and one vital material you should provide is a review guide with top points they learned that day or session.   All of these materials should be made available to the employees so they can review it as they need to.

Step 5: Implementation

 When bringing a training program into a business for the first time, implementation can be the most difficult step.  This step includes tracking, selecting mentors or observers and finally training current employees.  Many employees won’t want to be re-trained however, this is your chance to get honest feedback about things you may have missed and to ensure current employees are doing exactly what you want.  Tracking employees can be accomplished using excel or in their personnel files, by tracking if they did well in a certain session you could use them in the future to step peer mentoring or as the observer for new employees.

Step 6: Evaluation 

How exactly are you going to ensure that your employees or team members actually learned what you are teaching and if your training program is effective?  By creating a test, you can see exactly where you need to focus whereas creating an evaluating through observation allows to immediately correct a mistake.  Both of these types of evaluations should be used in the improvement phase. 

Step 7: Improvement 

Just like any program or process in business, the training program should always be continuously improved.  If your observers notice that the majority of people don’t understand how to do a certain task, then you should focus more on that task.  If the employees aren’t doing well on the test, maybe you need to see if the way you are presenting the materials should be reviewed and improved.  This step is never ending and you should always be modifying your program to better serve your business.

Training is often thought of as a pain and a waste of money,but training can save you money and help you make more money.  Each of these steps is vital to having a great training program at your business and in the coming weeks I will expand on each step on my website www.corymclark.com

This article does not represent the views of my employer nor past employers.  To read more by Cory Clark, visit www.corymclark.com

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the food was amazing but the service was terrible? Likewise, have you ever been to a restaurant where the hostess smiled at you and asked you how your day was, your server was polite, but the food was mediocre? Most people would go back to the restaurant where the service was amazing and the server was smiling even if the food was mediocre.

For more articles written by Cory M. Clark check out www.corymclark.com

The majority of people will go back to the restaurant, the computer store, the amusement park, or the airline that provides a level of service that exceeds the customers’ expectations. People will go back to those companies because of the people and extreme lengths that these employees are willing to go through for them. Dr. Noelle Nelson stated that, “employees will only self-sustain their enthusiasm for the work” they do for a limited amount of time. That is why employers need to do everything in their power to keep employees happy.

Now the big question, the question that most people and business owners are asking right now, is how do I get my team members and employees to be happy? How do I get them to treat our customers so they want to come back? There are several ways to do this, but the most effective way is to find a way to incorporate all of the following things.

Flexibility. Every person is different. From taking care of children to taking parents to doctors’ appointments, every team member is different. In fact Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder and billionaire, stated that at his company, “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours a day, a week or a month off.” While this extreme amount of flexibility is not needed at most companies, leaving some flexibility in the hands of the employee can go a long way in making employees happy. Many companies have stringent rules on not being allowed to leave early or switching shifts with other employees; however, some of the best and the happiest employees are those who are able to switch shifts with each other, come to work 15 minutes early and leave 15 minutes early, or are able to take their lunch break when they feel that they need to. Be Flexible!

Benefits. While not every company is able to give their employees the ability to fly anywhere for free, companies can give employees some awesome benefits such as allowing employees to pick their own schedules based on their top choices. This could be as simple as creating a bid system where those with the highest seniority can pick first. Giving employees free coffee and the ability to use the company wifi without worry of getting in trouble, can increase morale and are more likely to make them your company’s advocates. Alison Green, a writer for U.S. News, stated in a recent article that “too many employees don’t take all the vacation time they earn, either because they can’t get time off approved or because their manager and workplace culture signal subtly or not so subtly – that if they take time off, they’ll be seen as a slacker.” Allow your employees to use their vacation time without feeling ashamed or having to work around ridiculous black out dates, and you will have much happier employees!

Open Door. Every company is different and every employee’s needs are different. The number one thing any manager can do in order to keep employees happy is to have an open door. Keeping an open door to your employees so that they can talk to you about any company problems and, more importantly, any ideas they have. Your employees are on the front line and they will come up with better ways of serving your customers or creating processes which will be more productive if they know their ideas will be listened to and taken seriously.

Every company strives to be better for their customers, but it is also important that your employees are happy as well. By simple having an open door, offering flexibility, and providing awesome benefits, you can have a team that will be dedicated, and customers that will receive amazing service.

The Three P’s of Business

The three P’s of business apply to every business from airlines to furniture manufacturers to home cleaners. These P’s or Pillars of Business are: People, Process, and Product. These pillars hit every facet of business and should be on the top of every business owner and manager’s mind when looking at ways of improving their business. Most businesses can survive with only two of the P’s but the best companies, the companies that are top of their industry, make use of all three Ps.

For more articles written by Cory M. Clark check out www.corymclark.com

People

“Businesses are based on relationships and relationships are based on people” Marcus Lemonis stated in an interview with Forbes Magazine.

Dick Albu President & Founder of Albu Consulting Inc. stated, “two-thirds of success is the result of getting the full buy-in from key employees.” This statement by Dick Albu is correct and, more importantly, is saying that businesses need to recruit and retain employees that are capable of buying into the culture and the business itself. Often, business owners and management figures will have plans and the ability to conduct great programs and create new products; however, they often fail because the employees and team members are not on board.

Product

The product of any business, whether a piece of furniture, an airline seat, or a cleaner, is one of the three P’s that does not have to be changed once it is perfected; however, when adding a service or new product, Ivan Widjaya stated that “If you’re going to innovate or improve, often that’s a matter of launching a totally new product or service to compliment your existing one.” The product should be constantly reviewed and data should be collected in order to ensure that the product is meeting the needs of the customer.

Process

Ever gone into a restaurant, placed your order with the waiter and when it got to your table it either was cold or it took two hours to get there? This is a failure on part of the business and it had two of the P’s but not the processes.

Processes are very different from industry to industry and many processes give discretion to the team members or employees that are following them. In order to create processes, some business owners or managers go through the process themselves and write down all the steps, while other managers have the employees performing them attempt to come up with the process themselves.

The three P’s of business often take time to get down and most business can be successful; however, those businesses that utilize all three P’s will be at the top of their industries and will be the next Apple and Exxon Mobile.

FAA Treatment of Hobbyist and Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has restricted all unmanned aerial vehicles to hobbyists. They have granted several exemptions to six aerial production companies, the first such exception the FAA has granted. The confusion over what a hobbyist is and what a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle is, is affecting the public as well as the law enforcement community.

For more articles written by Cory M. Clark check out www.corymclark.com

The Federal Aviation Administration does not define what a “hobby or recreational purposes” is, nor is there any legislative history providing the meaning behind them. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary a hobby is a “pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” An example of a hobby flight is a person taking photos for personal use and viewing a field to determine whether crops need water only if they are grown for personal enjoyment. In these examples the FAA provides clear guidance that if the unmanned aerial vehicle is being used in any way to assist in a business or is income generating, is not allowed.

It goes without explanation that commercial unmanned aerial vehicles are any unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”), that are being used to generate money. An example the Federal Aviation Administration gives is determining whether the crops that need to be watered are part of a commercial farming operation. The FAA also specifically states that “[a] Realtor using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he is trying to sell and using the photos in the properties real estate listing” is considered a commercial action, thus not allowed. These examples show that if a person or company is using an unmanned aerial vehicle that in any way assists them in creating an income they are violating federal law.

According to John Goglia, a contributor to Forbes and Professor at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, in a recent article, “The FAA’s failure to act has resulted in the drone industry in the US lagging behind other countries. It’s hard to understand why our government would not want to be in the forefront of this new and exciting technology.”

The typical person will not have an issue with the Federal Aviation Administration; however, if you are using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to make videos and post them on YouTube, will they come after you? Will the FAA stop a farmer from taking pictures of their crops if they notice after the fact that they need to be watered? The Federal Aviation Administration is working on creating new rules and regulations and, like with any new technology in the aviation industry, it will take time.