Why do pilots become fatigued and how to prevent it.


What is Pilot's Fatigue?


Fatigue is a general lack of alertness and degradation in mental and physical performance, and can affect pilot alertness, performance, and judgment during flight. Pilot fatigue has been documented as early as 1927 when Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean.



Causes of Pilot’s Fatigue


Here are some common causes of pilot’s fatigue:

  • Inadequate sleep due to biological clock disruptions, such as flying through different time zones or working nightshifts.

  • Night flights or early morning report times that occur during normal hours of sleep

  • The requirement to sleep during daylight hours

  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia

  • Mental boredom associated with long-haul flights

  • Stress, anxiety, or depression

  • Poor nutrition or illness




Prevention


While companies and organizations, including the FAA, have regulations in place to help manage and avoid fatigue, it is still the responsibility of the pilot to take specific steps to ensure they are not battling fatigue while also trying to fulfill their duties.


Here are some things you can do off duty or outside flight hours:

  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours

  • Practice good sleep hygiene techniques to ensure good quality of sleep

  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy balanced diet

  • Learn about and practice stress-reduction techniques to fight stress-induced fatigue

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Try cutting out long commutes to work


There are also some techniques you can do during flight hours or while on duty that will help to fight off fatigue or prevent it completely:

  • Rotate flight tasks

  • Alternate period of activity and relaxation during long flights

  • Schedule frequent short breaks

  • Try pre-planning naps





Sources: https://www.faa.gov/pilots/safety/pilotsafetybrochures/media/Fatigue_Aviation.pdf http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:pilot-fatigue

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