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Contributing Factors But hours of service (HoS) don’t tell the whole story. As one wag observed, “Rest is not the absence of work.” Pressure on the job is another contributing factor. Aircraft on ground (AOG) situations routinely begets pressure, but there are completely unforeseen dilemmas, as well. “Consider, for example, the stress placed on the maintenance system at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport after tornados damaged more than 100 aircraft,” says an industry official, referring to storms that ravaged the northeast Texas airfield last April. According to Thaden, job pressure


Dr. Bill Johnson, FAA chief scientific and technical advisor for Human Factors in Aircraft Maintenance Systems


overtime and managers want flexibility,” says Dr. Bill Johnson, FAA’s chief scientific and technical advisor for Human Factors in Aircraft Maintenance Systems. That presents a challenge, he adds, especially since some professionals “are just now getting the salary they got in 2001,” prior to the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers.


probably won’t ease up soon. “With the increase in aircraft demand compounded by the looming retirement of 53 percent of the aircraft maintenance workforce, the current pressure to do more with less will continue to mount,” she predicts. The maintenance professional’s long commute may be another contributing factor to fatigue. Average commute time among maintenance professionals to and from work is one hour, according to Giovannoli’s study. Once at work, technicians may find that poor lighting, working outdoors and other


environmental conditions may also cause them to tire. “Temperature changes can bring on fatigue,” says Thaden, “and maintenance hangars often are not temperature controlled.”


Even a maintenance professional’s weight can be a factor. Thaden included body mass index (BMI) in her survey and found that 48 percent of the respondents are overweight and 31 percent are obese. A person with a BMI of 30 or more, calculated by his or her weight/body-mass ratio, is considered obese. Sleep apnea, a breathing disorder prevalent among overweight people, can cause drowsiness during waking hours, according to Thaden. A prevalent fatigue factor in aircraft maintenance is working at night. Airliners fly during the day, which means most inspections and repair must be conducted at night. The so-called “graveyard shift” affects our circadian rhythm, or internal body clocks, which inherently tells us that when it’s dark, we should sleep. Giovannoli refers to a “sleep dept” that can occur because “individuals will fight sleepiness while working throughout the night and then combat wakefulness while attempting to sleep during the day.”


Aviation Maintenance | avm-mag.com | June / July 2012 21


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