"Mitigating Fatigue Globally"
J. Randolph Babbitt, Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates
November 14, 2011

Royal Aeronautical Society, UAE Branch

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you for that kind introduction, Tim (Jenkins).

It’s a pleasure and an honor to join you here as we approach the 40th Anniversary of the United Arab Emirates. We all share a passion for aviation. And we are all working towards the next level of safety.  

I was impressed with the air show yesterday. 

Air traffic in the Gulf is some of the busiest and fastest growing in the world. Airlines here are rapidly expanding global routes. And they will be using new Boeing 777s and Airbus A-380s to transport those passengers globally.

Emirates is among the first international carriers to receive approval for Required Navigation Performance approaches in the United States. The airline has been approved for these highly accurate GPS-based approaches using its Boeing 777 aircraft. These approaches enhance safety, are good for the environment, and are the way of the future.

And Dubai is certainly looking to the future. In just the past five yearsDubaiInternationalAirporthas seen a 65 percent increase in passenger volume. It’s now 13th in the world in terms of passengers. That is truly impressive.

Safely managing rapid growth is a challenging balancing act. But it can be accomplished with the right tools and procedures.

Today I want to talk with you about fatigue risk management and enhancing safety by better addressing human factors.

I would like to share with you some of the steps we are taking in the United Statesto enhance safety for every air traveler.

Fatigue is increasingly recognized as a key risk to aviation safety and operational efficiency.  And I would note that very well trained pilots still perform poorly when fatigued.

Like aviation itself, fatigue is global.  It doesn't discriminate on the basis of nationality.  Its effect on the people who operate our global aviation system is the same, regardless of whose flag is on the tail of the airplane. 

That's why ICAO long ago established basic international standards that require each contracting state to have regulations on flight time, flight duty periods, overall duty periods, and rest periods for flight and cabin crew members.  

There are different approaches to complying with the ICAO standard, and that's why I enjoy the opportunity to interact with groups like yours.  Safety is our top priority in aviation, and events that let us share our best information and best practices for managing fatigue and mitigating its risk, contribute to achieving that goal.

In that spirit, I'd like to spend a few minutes today sharing some information and updates on what the United States Federal Aviation Administration is doing in the area of fatigue risk management and mitigation.

Let me first bring you up to date on the status of our proposed rule on flight duty and rest. I have been pushing for pilot flight and duty time changes since I was President of the Air Line Pilots Association in the 1990s. 

The FAA has tried over the years to put forward changes in its flight, duty and rest regulations.

When I became FAA Administrator, one of my top priorities was to finally make those changes a reality.

We are currently working on a final rule which will ensure pilots have more opportunity for rest.  This will benefit pilots and the traveling public.

We are working aggressively to get this rule out as soon as possible.

The proposed rule focuses on education, awareness, and mitigation – all based on updated research and science on fatigue.  

Let me share with you some of the key elements.

At its most basic level, the FAA's proposal aims to ensure that pilots have an opportunity to obtain sufficient rest to perform with the level of safety we all expect. 

The rule would adjust flight duty periods based on time of day in order to mitigate known detriments to performance during the late night and early morning operations.  

Furthermore, it would provide credit for fatigue mitigation, such as improved sleep facilities.

It also provides air carriers with flexibility by permitting a limited extension of the flight duty period. 

There is another provision in the rule as well, and that deals with an optional Fatigue Risk Management System.

It would allow a certificate holder to customize its flight operations based on a scientifically validated demonstration of fatigue mitigation. 

There are many positive aspects to Fatigue Risk Management Systems. This area is currently under review by ICAO and the International Air Transport Association. I applaud both groups for working collaboratively on the problem. And I know that airlines here have done a lot of work on this, especially on the very long-haul flights.  As an example, the system that Emirates has developed over the past 10 years has been industry-leading, and serves as a model for other international carriers.

Fatigue is a universal human problem and we need to learn from each other. That’s why these forums are so helpful.

I often say that fatigue is like lead poisoning. By the time you realize it, it’s too late. 

We need to teach crews how to recognize the signs of fatigue so they can assess whether they are fit to fly.  

This is what fatigue risk management systems do.

It’s a system designed to evaluate the fatigue risk of a work schedule. It determines if a crew member is rested enough to safely perform their duties at this time, in this weather, after having a certain amount of sleep or after a certain number of hours of work.  

The system is based on science and empirical findings. It uses multi-layered defensive strategies to mitigate and manage the risk from fatigue.

Fatigue risk management systems provide for flexibility and innovation – air carriers can propose methods in addition to the measures required by law. 

An FAA-approved system can augment specific flight time, duty time, and rest period requirements. It can augment them with alternative procedures that demonstrate a level of safety equal to, or greater than, the rules.  And it is a step toward performance-based regulatory oversight.

We at the FAA are committed to ensuring that pilots are fit and rested when they report for duty.  And we will continue to work diligently with our global aviation partners to enhance our collective knowledge of fatigue and how to handle it.

There is much for us to learn from each other and that’s why events like this one are so important.  Thank you again for inviting me today.  I look forward to our continued partnership in the pursuit of the highest levels of aviation safety.

Thank you.