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Australasia User Summit Recap

SAFTE-FAST holds a conference every year that brings together our users so that they can learn about new features and share information about how they use biomathematical modeling within their organization. In previous years, SAFTE-FAST User Conferences have been held in the Americas or Europe. You can read the recap of the 2023 SAFTE-FAST User Conference held in Campinas, Brazil, here. The conference is a great opportunity for users to share ideas and network, but SAFTE-FAST is used by organizations all over the world, not just the Western Hemisphere. We understand that a host location may preclude some users from being able to attend. Content from past conferences is available online after the fact. Still, web content cannot make up for the sense of community and ability to freely express thoughts from face-to-face meetings. You can view some of the presentations from the Australasia User Summit here.



Our users have expressed a desire for more direct access to the SAFTE-FAST software support and science teams, so we decided to try something new in 2024. This past February, Director of Client Services Murray McGrath and Director of Sleep Science Jaime K. Devine traveled to Sydney, Australia, for our first-ever Australasia User Summit hosted at Qantas Head Quarters in Mascot, New South Wales, Australia. Over 50 attendees from organizations based in the South Pacific and Asia attended the one-day event. One presentation even included a series of overlaid maps showing the size of the island nation Nauru in relation to cities in Australia and across the world. Nauru is only 21 km2 (8.1 square miles) and is the third-smallest country in the world after Vatican City and Monaco.


The User Summit began with an Acknowledgement of Country and an introduction to the history of Qantas. Qantas Airlines is over 100 years old and has a demonstrated investment in safety. In 1965, Qantas Safety Manager Jack Grant invented the inflatable slide raft used by most commercial aircraft today. According to a Qantas presentation called Data, Data, Data, The Importance of Pilot Data within a FRMS, which can be found on our website, Qantas operates flights from as short as 25 minutes to as long as 20+ hours, with over 2200 pilots and 125 planes. Data collection is a valued component of FRMS across this wide range of operations.


Many of the day's presentations focused on how to engage crewmembers by incorporating questions about sleep or fatigue into tools that they use every day, like the Electronic Flight Folder (EFF+), which allows pilots to report flight specifics and, more recently, includes a Crew Alertness Report as well.


Another integration with everyday tools is real-time fatigue analysis with SAFTE-FAST in Leon. You can read more about the integration of SAFTE-FAST into Leon here: Real Time Fatigue Analysis with SAFTE-FAST in Leon - Leon Software and Nauru Airlines Launches Real Time. Leon is flight scheduling aviation software designed for business charter operators, airlines, and flight support companies. The integration with SAFTE-FAST allows Leon users to see color-coded fatigue metrics for a given flight, enabling them to monitor fatigue in real time. Leon data can also be exported and imported into SAFTE-FAST for further analysis. Integrations are another way to increase buy-in from crewmembers.


Workload was a key point at the Australasia User Summit, just as it was at the 2023 SAFTE-FAST User Conference. Fatigue due to sleep disruption may be easier to spot. Night operations, transmeridian travel, and sleep data can be measured objectively, but workload is still largely subjective and often unpredictable. For example, the same flight route could be easy one day because the weather is beautiful but difficult the next day if a thunderstorm rolls in. Workload is also a vague term that can be applied to a variety of anecdotal reports. The same can be said for "fatigue" with regards to its everyday usage. While professionals in the safety or human factors space are generally familiar with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) definitions of fatigue and workload, it is important to train new crewmembers to understand how to use these words in the context of their jobs. ICAO defines fatigue "as a physiological state of reduced mental or physical performance capability resulting from sleep loss or extended wakefulness, circadian phase, or workload (mental and/or physical activity) that can impair a crewmember's alertness and ability to operate an aircraft or perform safety-related duties safely." It may be difficult for crewmembers to understand how or when to report fatigue due to illness, job stress, or symptoms of burnout. Objective data would be ideal for monitoring workload as a fatigue driver.


Objective data would also simplify the matter of modeling workload. SAFTE-FAST allows users to model workload using their best judgment for setting triggers and weights for workload factors. Data from the NASA Task Load Index (TLX) can also be used to estimate the amount of workload associated with a given task in SAFTE-FAST. Users are free to use any other workload survey as well, but there is no reliable, objective measure for workload across domains yet. Some domains of workload—such as frustration, stress, and burnout- are emotional in nature. While we may be able to predict the number of flight segments during a duty period, the difficulty of landing at a specific airport, or even, to a lesser extent, the weather, scientists are much farther off at being able to reliably predict an emotional reaction to work tasks. Adding workload as a factor in a biomathematical model is still in its infancy, meaning that it doesn't have to be factored by one right way—multiple ways may work equally well. One panelist suggested that the ideal solution would be one score that takes all sources of workload and fatigue into account. The Insights score in SAFTE-FAST can be calibrated to include Workload, Effectiveness, Sleep Reservoir, and Fatigue Hazard Area, but pinning down the best method for modeling workload will need ongoing collaboration between the IBR science team and SAFTE-FAST users.


The lunch break was followed by an overview of enhancements users can expect in SAFTE-FAST 7. SAFTE-FAST 7 will have a new look and feel and have feature parity between WebSFC and the SAFTE-FAST Console. SAFTE-FAST 7 is moving from a text file data format to a database format. Users can create a profile that will allow them to store templates and parameters in a library and protect against unauthorized changes. Templates will allow for multiple data source profiles to increase the ease of merging data. Dynamic Sleep Rhythm Amplitude will default in SAFTE-FAST 7 as well. As discussed in the afternoon panel, the new interface should have improved usability and can avoid misinterpretation of SAFTE-FAST outputs.


On the Research and Development side of things, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) presented the results of a study conducted with shift-working service members using IBR's individual sleep hygiene app SleepTank. The SleepTank app is compatible with Fitbit Versa 2s and will alert the wearer when they should go to bed. The concept is similar to a fuel tank in a car. An individual's SleepTank is filled with a full night's sleep. "Low tank" warnings occur after about 16 hours of wakefulness, 21 hours of wakefulness, and 24 hours of wakefulness. Similar to how you can drive fewer miles if you only fill up your car's tank halfway, sleep restriction will result in early warning times. Another experimental component of the SleepTank study was express periods of low Effectiveness in terms of equivalence to the cognitive decline that could be expected from a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than 0.05. SAFTE-FAST features an overlay that allows users to compare Effectiveness to BAC, but applying this comparison to objective sleep data is a novel method of communicating risk. Service members in the RAN study reported going to bed earlier if they had access to the SleepTank app. Participants who had access to the app had longer sleep duration and better sleep efficiency compared to participants who only had access to the Fitbit app.


Dr. Gemma Paech walked attendees through fatigue risk management strategies for cabin crew. Fatigue risk management is largely thought of as a pilot problem, but cabin crew get tired too. Cabin crew interact with passengers and need to be able to assist in the case of an emergency. Fatigued flight attendants run the risk of grumpiness. Additionally, sleep deprivation can impair the immune system's ability to fight off illnesses. Cabin crew come into direct contact with passengers with greater regularity than do pilots, and so, are often exposed to more communicable diseases like colds, the flu, or COVID-19. Workload also differs between pilots and cabin crew. Take-off and landing periods are critical for pilots, but flight attendants handle meal and beverage services in addition to any other passenger requests throughout the flight period. Dr. Paech was also a huge help when it came to planning and executing our first Australasia User Summit and deserves a big thanks from the IBR and SAFTE-FAST teams!


Attendees were treated to a reception at GG's Street Bar at Qantas Head Quarters at the end of the day's presentations. Of course, a group picture had to be taken in front of the iconic Qantas engine. Attendees had a chance to speak directly with the IBR team and each other about summit content or life in general. It was a great way to close out our premier user event for SAFTE-FAST users in Asia and the South Pacific.


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