How Much do You Remember about the FAR117 Cutover?
As you may know, last year Canadian carriers faced regulation changes, similar to the US cutover to the new 117 FAR fatigue rules. Read more about it here. I am sure their transition is as exciting and scary for them, as it was for us in the US.
How much do you remember about the cutover to the 117 FARs? As I reflect on our 10 years in business, the cutover to the new 117 fatigue rules must be the most exciting and memorable time for us. Well, up until now, I think the COVID-19 crisis will always be at the top.
At the time, it was just Jeff, myself, and my senior programmer at the helm. We created this amazing tool that would change the course of how crew legality issues were tracked. We were able to build a robust engine that highlighted critical situations in a pro-active manner, while still permitting customization for special situations such short calls and extensions.
I remember the day we went live, like it was yesterday. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my office at the time, was a small
one-bedroom apartment. Jeff and I said good-bye to our families and told them we would talk to them when the dust settled. I packed enough clothes for a few weeks, stopped at the grocery store to fill up on energy drinks, coffee, doughnuts (i.e., the essentials) and prepared to go to war. I wasn’t planning on seeing the light of day until all operations were functioning as they should. Thinking back, the apartment looked more like a frat house than an office, and I’m pretty sure Jeff and I smelled and probably looked like Bevis and Butthead.
So, there we were with our IT war gear in place, ready to face our battle against the complicated regulation changes that were wreaking havoc on the US airline industry. Just like Murphy’s Law, it just so happened that the first couple of days were terrible weather days. IROPS were causing thousands of cancellations and delays in the northeast. Talk about baptism by fire, it certainly put our software through the stress test. I don’t think Jeff, or I slept for three days that faithful week. I mean, an installation in a live environment is scary enough, but 10 at the same time. I do not think I took a breath for 10 days. Jeff and I took shifts to make sure every carrier was fully supported 24 hours a day.
There were some bugs we had to work out along the way, but we were right on-top of them and the implementation process was relatively flawless. During the first two weeks, our customers were reporting a few bugs a day. And as there were still kinks in the FAAs interpretation of regulation changes, we were putting out new releases almost daily.
“ELP’s foresight filled a vital need for our airlines conversion to FAR 117 operations. Our current CMS did not give the users “real time” visibility to the new cumulative FDP and flight time calculations. The ELP tool allows us to be proactive in crew recovery, as well as trigger daily email notifications to pilots regarding their individual cumulative flight and duty time limits. In addition to this new visibility, ELP has been extremely responsive to service requests and modifications that were specific to our airline.”AirTran Crew Operations Southwest Airlines
This practice was very evident during those first few weeks. In addition to bugs and interpretation changes, we were gathering information from our customers to identify ways we could improve the practical functionality to make tracking the new fatigue rules more efficient and making the scheduler’s lives easier, especially during IROPS recovery. Because of the unique ways we build solutions, we can easily implement custom features without comprising the stability of the software. As we listened to our customers needs, we have since built many peripheral tools, such as a 117 Limits App, ACARS, 117 Statistical Analysis Dashboard, just to name a few. We also improve our tool to be web-based and have What-If scenario capability for IROPS recovery planning.
After a couple of weeks, the phone calls slowed down and we were able to celebrate our incredible accomplishment. But before the champagne came out, we went home, showered, and slept for a few days. Once the dust settled, ELP reached out to all the carriers, and the feedback was phenomenal. The ELP 117 tools saved the carriers tons of time and money by giving clear visibility to all the possible problems surfacing during the IROPS recovery that occurred that first week. Several carriers said that the 117 tools were their “go to” place to see how the airline was running and what critical issues needed addressing.
In fact, they used our tool to identify bugs in the core CMS software. Our customers very quickly realized the power of our tools and our
knowledge of 117 regulation interpretations. We have become the experts, experts come to for 117 tracking. It certainly was a daunting task, but we enjoyed every nerve-wracking minute of it.
Through that experience, we were able to help El Al Airlines through their regulation change when Israel implemented their version of the 117 FAR. Our tools have been used for multiple crew regulations, including FAR 121 and FAR 135, and is designed to accommodate any international communities duty/rest regulations. We are glad we were a part of such an exciting time in our industry and look forward to continuing to improve and update our tools to be the most cost-effective forward-thinking technology available.