Aviation Operational Risk Management (AvORM)

By MR. KEVIN SLUSS, CSP, HQ AMCFlight Safety AvORM Administrator

Risk is inherent in all missions, operations, and activities, both on- and off-duty. Air Mobility Command’s Aviation Operational Risk Management (AvORM) provides a formal decision-making system that identifies risks and encourages mitigation strategies. The appropriate level of supervision balances risk and benefits. AvORM does not replace sound judgment or restrict safety-of-flight decisions by the aircraft commander or leadership. At no time does an accepted level of risk waiver preclude the aircraft commander from declaring safety-of-flight anytime during mission execution if it is determined the crew is not capable of safely accomplishing the mission.

The standardized AMC AvORM program was launched in 2007 with the accompanying manual worksheet and the Air Mobility Command Instruction (AMCI) 90-903. Recently, AMC Flight Safety published an updated version in December 2018. AMC Flight Safety also hosts the Aeromedical Evacuation Crewmember (AECM) risk management worksheet (last updated July 2, 2018) on its Air Force Portal page.

AMC’s command and control software for aviation operations, Global Decision Support System (GDSS), included the electronic version of the AvORM worksheet in 2008. Advantages of the electronic worksheet include automatic entry of a mission itinerary. This permits any GDSS user to make inputs for each flight duty period and for each sortie. The system records these inputs and stores them electronically, eliminating the need for paper records on those missions. Over the years, the electronic worksheet incorporated automatic inputs when feasible. These inputs now include airfield/enroute complexity from remarks in the Airfield Suitability and Restrictions (ASRR) report and flight hours information from the Aviation Resource Management System (ARMS).

AMC Safety began studies on incorporating fatigue management software in 2009. In 2013, GDSS added the mission effectiveness (ME) graph feature, commonly known as the “fatigue graph.” The graph depicts a mission itinerary against a cognitive effectiveness reference scale. It depicts an aircrew’s current circadian rhythm alignment, planned flight duty period duration, and mission flight and ground times. Current fatigue research does not support the graph as a stand-alone Go/No-Go decisionmaker, but it is a vital component of a multidimensional, comprehensive risk management process. Its cognitive effectiveness estimate assumes the need for eight hours of good quality sleep per 24 hours to maintain optimal effectiveness. Individual effectiveness varies based on individual workloads, in-flight rest periods if available, and sleep cycles.

GDSS automatically generates an ME graph for each mission number that contains a validated itinerary. The program assumes rest periods working around the takeoff and landing times.

The graph depicts 100 percent effectiveness at the top, with the “green” zone extending down to 77.5 percent. The “yellow” zone ranges from 77.5 percent to 70 percent, and the “orange” zones encompass effectiveness below the 70-percent level. Research studies developed these thresholds based on historical accident probability. Another way to view the zone would be to consider 77.5 percent as equivalent to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 percent and the 70 percent line equivalent to a BAC of .08 percent. Each electronic graph contains a legend menu, but line colors follow this pattern: duty periods are blue, non-sleep recovery periods are gray, and sleep periods are black. When GDSS assigns an augmented crew to the mission, a second line appears on the graph in a slightly lighter color. The augmented line includes an assumption of an inflight nap recovery per flight duty period, resulting in a depiction of higher effectiveness.

In 2015, GDSS users gained the mission linking capability, which can combine ME graphs from separate missions into one graph. This improves accuracy for aircrews who complete one mission and then accept another adjacent mission that starts at the same location with the same aircraft. Without linking, the graph would depict effectiveness for the new mission as if the crew was leaving from their home station.

In 2017, GDSS users gained the auto-populate entry feature. From certain fields in GDSS, you can right-click the mission number and then left-click the pop-up menu item “Score Mission in AvORM.” GDSS will then open the AvORM application window and auto-populate the mission number, removing the need to type it in. Users can also add the AvORM column to the mission dashboard. Additionally, aircrews, by scoring the fatigue risk factor in the electronic system, can reduce the recovery period prior to a flight duty period by 10 percent for each point added in that risk factor. So, for each risk level (moderate-high-severe), the graph recovery will reduce by 48 minutes on a standard eight-hour recovery.

In 2019, AMC added AvORM as an app on the Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). The current version of the app is a stand-alone tool that does not require connection to GDSS. Planning an itinerary requires manual input of mission name, aircraft, crew composition (basic or augmented), airports (by International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] designation), drop zones or air refueling as applicable, and departure/landing times. The Look for current AvORM documents at: more information on AvORM at the AMC Flight Safety page: inquiries to: or call
DSN 779-0930 / (618) 229-0930.
app does not calculate enroute times. The app mimics the capability of the AvORM online worksheet in GDSS. Help within the app provides further instructions. AMC has plans to introduce an upgrade to the app in the future that will provide the capability to connect to GDSS and upload an existing itinerary into the app, removing the need for manual input.