26th July 2023

Trainer fatigue

Initial Report

For all training duties on the line it is expected that crews report early. As a Line Training Captain the day must be carefully planned, as you cannot expect support from the trainee. A safe duty requires the trainer to complete Captain, FO and Trainer roles. These duties are rostered as per any other flight duty, 1 hour prior to STD and 30min after landing. As a trainer, the real report is 1:30 before STD, and 1hr after landing which includes debrief. Additional report writing, on average, takes an hour. Each training duty therefore requires an extra 2 hours of duty. I have raised this and have been told it won’t change. There is also resistance from rostering when I do have the energy to change off-duty times. The accumulated fatigue over a year of nearly constant training approaching 900 hours is extreme. A training duty has additional stress from the workload, and to consider these to be “normal flights” is unrealistic. We have had incident reports of tail strikes, and balked landings. I don’t feel the company safety management system of fatigue and rostering is capturing and controlling trainer fatigue. Apart from an internal confidential fatigue report, the only other person contacted was a pilot manager who was not interested.

Company Comment

Our thanks to the reporter for raising this report to CHIRP. Trainer fatigue is a known industry issue and we are constantly monitoring it proactively and reactively through surveys, predictive and actual fatigue reporting, occurrences and hazard reporting and trend analysis. This is also an issue that is being discussed at FOLG subgroups [Flight Operations Liaison Group – an industry-wide forum for airline operations directors], which we also attend. While there is always scope for improvement, our fatigue management program has recently proven its effectiveness through actions taken on the back of fatigue reports. Crew, trainers included, are encouraged to submit fatigue reports (actual and predictive) should they experience a fatigue related event and/or concern. All our reports are handled confidentially and in accordance with our Just Culture.

While there is no evidence that fatigue has been a factor in any of our safety occurrences happening during a training flight in the past 12 months, our Crew Training team is already working on simplifying the report writing process, which can currently be quite time consuming for our trainers. Other actions are also being discussed and will be communicated to the trainer community once agreed. In the meantime, we would like to reiterate the importance of reporting fatigue related concerns and events through our fatigue reporting program. Reporting allows us to identify issues and trends and in turn enables us to address them. Each report can also be submitted anonymously should the reporter wish to protect their identity even further.

CHIRP Comment

Notwithstanding this report came to us in the post-COVID recovery period when training flights were regular and frequent, the fundamental issue boils down to whether trainers should be given an extra time allowance to accommodate the additional planning and briefing/debriefing training activity. Some companies do allow extra time for the training activity within their reporting/check-in time allowances and it seems to CHIRP that this represents best practice.

More fundamentally, although to some extent the extra burden of training is all part and parcel of being a trainer, in times of increased training flows this can soon mount up and become very challenging; being constantly rostered for frequent training duties can be extremely fatiguing and does not represent best-practice even if additional time is allowed for the training activity. The problem is likely to be seasonal for many companies and so it is vitally important that they monitor the potential for trainer fatigue especially during the Spring/Summer period when increased numbers of training flights are more likely. On a personal level, if as a trainer you feel you are becoming fatigued then do submit fatigue reports to highlight this, multiple if necessary – without data and trend information, safety management systems are unlikely to address issues that may not be apparent to them as endemic rather than just a one-off situation.

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