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Flarepath April 2017 By: Tom Chalmers

The battle against pilot fatigue

Looking for Ways to Reduce Pilot Fatigue? Give Them a Place to Nap!

PEOPLE ARE slowly waking up to the fact that there is a worldwide sleeplessness crisis. The CDC in the US recognises sleeplessness as a public health concern, noting that lack of sleep contributes to many chronic health problems and is linked to industrial mishaps and auto accidents. The consequences can be more acute when fatigued employees are at the controls of an aircraft.

As everyone connected with the airline industry knows, pilot fatigue can be a serious — sometimes fatal — problem. Fatigue was identified as a factor in the Colgan Air passenger plane crash outside of Buffalo, New York. It was also a contributing factor to the loss of the UPS Airlines cargo flight that went down short of the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, in the UK. US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairperson, Deborah Hersman, noted that finding more effective ways to counter pilot fatigue has been an NTSB goal for 20 years, without the appropriate regulatory action. But there is an efficient and effective way to fight fatigue — naps (short rest periods) — and passenger and cargo plane pilots are already benefitting from napping installations available at certain facilities.

How effective are naps in combating pilot fatigue? A landmark 1994 NASA study led by Mark R. Rosekind, formerly head of the NTSB, explored the effects of short-rest periods on crew performance and alertness on long-haul flight operations. The study noted a remarkable 30% improvement in physiological alertness and performance in pilots who took naps versus peers who did not.

Decision-makers at some major fixed base operator (FBO) facilities as well as cargo flight companies, understand the value of short-rest periods and currently provide nap facilities for their pilots. For example, napping pods are installed at the Jetex facility in the United Arab Emirates, Signature in New Jersey and at FedEx’s Memphis flight hub.

Napping facilities can effectively augment the mandatory rest periods found in guidelines like those issued by the Federal Aviation Administration in the US, which mandates 10 hours of rest prior to the flight duty period. The NASA study found that, while naps significantly improved pilot alertness and performance, the short-rest periods did not interfere with the pilots’ overall sleep patterns.

That is an important point to keep in mind since pilots often do not obtain the full period of rest prescribed before duty periods due to logistics. For example, a pilot may take a redeye to a flight origination point and not have sufficient time to fully recharge due to the time it takes to shuttle back and forth from the airport to the hotel, etc. A restorative nap can help.................................... To read the full article please subscribe to our E Magazine Here.

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