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NTSB urges better fatigue briefings before flights

In August 2013 a United Parcel Service (UPS) Airbus A300-600 cargo jet crashed into a hill less than a mile from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth (Alabama) airport, after an unstable approach, resulting in the deaths of two crew members.

The NTSB investigation report cites fatigue as a contributing factor to the mistakes which led to the crash. While preparing for the flight, the pilots were heard complaining about being tired on the cockpit voice recorder.

The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) issued 20 recommendations including urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require crews to brief each other on fatigue before each flight and for UPS and its pilots’ union to work together to develop a better rest management system. UPS disputed the board’s findings saying “we believe these facts – and others – don’t support such a finding” and said that the pilots had adequate time to rest before the flight. The independent pilots’ union claims that UPS has a punitive system that discourages pilots to report fatigue and cited results from a recent survey which found that 91 percent of pilots disagreed that the company encourages pilots to report their fatigue.

Pre-flight briefing and a non-punitive culture for reporting fatigue are recognised as effective countermeasures for fatigue and are used by many airlines as part of a fatigue risk management system. The FAA is understood to be considering the NTSB recommendations