EXTENDED OPS FACTORS
Choices are many and prices are high—and with ranges that cover the planet, body clocks take time to recover.
Circadian rhythm affects all our bodily functions (including brain function) throughout the day.
Reclining pilot seats enhance the effectiveness of NASA snoozes. For a long-range aircraft the jump seat requires additional consideration. It should be comfortable and allow the 3rd pilot to sit either between the first 2 pilots (normal location) or off-center so that the other pilots can enter or exit without the 3rd pilot having to get up.
According to Airbus Corporate Jets Marketing Dir David Velupillai, fly-by-wire systems help to reduce fatigue by increasing the aircraft's stability, while advanced navigation and autopilot systems, such as autoland, reduce the pilot workload further, particularly at the end of a long flight. Runway overrun protection (ROPS) is another helpful tool to reduce stress and workload. Airbus has decided to make its patented ROPS available to all aircraft manufacturers.
Display and area lighting flicker can induce distracting headaches. Bright area lighting can reduce fatigue during the period that the body considers to be the "wee" hours by fooling it into wakefulness—another zeitgeber.
According to Gulfstream Senior Mgr Social Media and External Communications Heidi Fedak, the company spent a lot of time ensuring that its PlaneView display system was uncluttered with a streamlined color palette to minimize distractions.
Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) Pres Steve Taylor, a long-time pilot, says, "In my experience, the thing that is most helpful to crews flying ultralong-range missions is simple, intuitive systems. [What] crews really need are airplanes that do what you expect them to do.
A fatigued crew has a much more difficult time dealing with 'What's it doing now?' issues than a fresh crew does." At BBJ, says Taylor, "We have a philosophy that gee-whiz items really have to earn their way onto our flightdeck because new technology can occasionally add complexity."
A number of pilots have commented on the ability of SVS and/or EVS to ease terminal area operations at an unfamiliar destination. Some larger metropolitan areas have marginal visibilities even on the best days. In addition, EVS provides operational credit, reducing the chances of a diversion—a stressful situation that will further extend the duty day.
Cabin design features
Bombardier Global 7000/8000 cockpit concept, already roomy, uses design elements to create the illusion of even more space.
A lower cabin altitude can reduce fatigue and other borderline hypoxia symptoms such as distracting headaches and night vision degradation. Most purpose-built bizjets can maintain a sea-level cabin up to 30,000 or 31,000 ft.
This translates to low cabin altitudes all the way up to FL510, which allows more direct, and therefore less stressful, routings. While the bizliners can't maintain the equivalent pressure differentials, their lower ceilings (FL410) also yield fairly low cabin altitudes. Maintaining good cabin humidity also reduces stress on the occupants.
All existing and planned long-range business jets offer enough space to build at least a 3-zone cabin. With proper dividers, this provides those who want to rest with adequate isolation so that the others won't disturb them.
For those who want to work or be entertained, technology advances continue to improve the connectivity options. In-seat displays allow a variety of activities without one person imposing their choices on those nearby.
Light and environmental control are important for the passengers, too. Those who want to work or play need adequate light while those who want to rest need the dark and cooler temperatures so individual lighting and multizone climate controls are a must. Improved sound and vibration isolation further reduce fatigue.
According to Bombardier Senior Customer Care Coordinator Debra Francz, the task of helping the passengers with all the technology falls on the flight attendant. He or she must be able to help passengers with the multifunctional seats, the cabin management system, the entertainment system and the connectivity systems. This includes knowing how to connect a BlackBerry or an iPhone to the onboard network and how to work the available medical monitoring systems in an emergency.
While most of these systems are not unique to long-range aircraft, they are more critical on longer flights, particularly in those areas where the local infrastructure is not compatible with the home-based systems. Given the increased workload on these long flights, some operators are adding a 2nd flight attendant.
Reducing fatigue is a responsibility shared by crews, scheduling departments, owners and manufacturers. The pilots and flight attendants must prepare themselves for individual flights by getting a good rest prior to departure and staying hydrated during the flight. They should be taking strolls through the cabin, engaging in regular tasks with their crewmates and resting.
While there are many common factors and guidelines, individuals have their own variations and each person should learn how best to prepare for long flights at unusual departure times.
Flight departments should take circadian rhythms into account when scheduling flights and use a software tool to avoid times of maximum fatigue. Adequate time should be allowed for rest prior to the return flight or a relief crew should be prepositioned to take over.
Further, the human side needs to be considered, since separation from family and familiar surroundings adds to the stress of the actual trip. Owners need to provide proper crew rest facilities as well as systems to allow the passengers to rest effectively. The entire cabin layout should support these goals, too.
Finally, aircraft manufacturers must design these aircraft carefully from nose to tail to minimize fatigue and maximize crew efficiency. The well-known slogan could be adapted to read, "The best safety device in any aircraft is a well rested crew."
Mike Venables is an aviation consultant and freelance writer. The principal at TriLink Technologies Group, Venables has been involved in the aerospace industry for more than 40 years, including aero engine, airframe, avionics and simulator manufacturers.
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