Problems Encountered In Flight Crew Planning In Airline Operations Management

  • Ass. Prof. Dr. Nil KONYALILAR


Today, airline operations management is carried out in almost all airlines by a center called the Operations Control Center (OCC), consisting of many teams. There are separate teams within the OCC that manage operations processes such as dispatch, maintenance, operations, crew planning, and aircraft assignment. The OCC is working to identify and address the problems related to these processes or the developments that may turn into problem.

It can be said that the purpose of this study is to identify problems that may arise from crew planning processes during the OCC operation period and create a solution index related to them. After creating this solution index, determining the conditions under which these problems turn into failures and proposing solutions so that they do not turn into failures can also be specified as the second goal of the study. In this study, the algorithm technique is used to determine the problems that may arise as a result of the crew planning operation process during the OCC operation period in airlines and to create the solution to the problems. This study was carried out with 30 expert crew planning employees working in five airlines in Turkey that manage their operations with the OCC units. The data was determined via interviews and telephone calls.

As a result of the interviews, it was stated by the participants that the problems caused by crew planning were generally related to crew matching, crew flight duty period, cockpit crew certification, and crew block flight duty period. As it is concluded based on the information provided by the participants that since the crew source of the airline is at the base of these problems, there is, in general, a solution to this problem. Again, the algorithm that shows the indexes of these solutions for the main base was also reached based on the opinions of the participants. It is also among the information provided by the participants that if these problems occur in the airports outside the base, the problems from the lack of crew resources usually turn into failures.

As a result of the interviews, some suggestions were made by the participants to avoid these problems turning into failures. The first solution was specified as the availability and number of reserve crew, so that the problems related to crew matching at base, crew's duty period, and certification do not turn into a failure. It is among the suggestions of the participants that the availability of reserve crew means that when the problem related to crew matching and crew certification arise, the reserve cockpit crew must be competent to solve the problems related to cockpit crew matching and cockpit crew certification. For example, a reserve cockpit crew who have no ILS CAT III competence would not solve the problem that may arise for this reason. The issue that when it comes to the number reserve crew, reserve crew needs to be planned in a number enough to solve the problems caused by the crew on that day has been raised. But that creates extra costs for airlines. Another proposal introduced by the participants is that the diversity of aircraft types in the fleet is also important to reduce reserve crew costs. For example, an airline has two aircraft types in its fleet, and for each type, there must be a reserve crew for any problems that may occur during the flights. It can be clearly stated that when a problem occurs in two flights of this airline with the same type of aircraft, there will be a failure in the second flight. Therefore, it can be said that a small number of aircraft types will make the reserve crew planning more effective.  Also, it is among the recommendations made by participants that ensuring that as many cockpit crews as possible have these competencies in order to solve crew certification problems by provision of training by the airlines can prevent this problem from turning into a failure.

The recommendations for exceeding block flight duty duration are as follows; it was reported that this problem could be prevented without turning into a failure by making crew planning in a homogeneous way. In addition, it was stated that the homogenous planning of aircraft types in the fleet to flights is important to avoid this problem. It is stated that, otherwise, there would be a problem of exceeding block flight duty period for the cockpit crew in the type of aircraft planned for further flights. It was also reported that the airline business has an appropriate number of crew sources would prevent this problem. The lack of crew sources is also presumed to create a block flight duty period problem, no matter how homogeneous the crew planning is made.