In the many different facets of aviation, fatigue can certainly be a detriment and even fatal! Long days, high operations tempo, stress of operations in high traffic areas or low level flight can really intensify the effects of fatigue on pilots.
What is fatigue? IN AC120-103 (FAA Circular of Fatigue Risk Management Systems)) the Federal Aviation Administration defines fatigue in aviation as “a complex state characterized by lack of alertness and reduced mental and physical performance, often accompanied by drowsiness.”
The effects of fatigue can be manifested in many aspects of performance, including increased reactions time, lapses in attention, reduced cognitive abilities, poor situational awareness, and lack of motivation.
Fatigue can be caused by a number of things, but common sense tell us the lack of sleep is the main culprit. According to many experts, the average person requires eight hours of sleep per night. Less than eight hours may result in “acute” or chronic” fatigue. The only way to recover is to simply get more rest.
In order to combat fatigue, one can do things like…..
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day
- Use sleeping areas for sleep only.
- Establish a bedtime routine
- Exercise everyday but not within two hours of bedtime.
- Keep sleeping areas cool and dark.
- Keep the alarm clock out of sight.
- Drink water to stay hydrated
- Take breaks throughout the day.
What can management, spouses, supervisors, friends, fellow workers, and others do to help the tired pilot? Keep an eye on your pilot! Make sure they are taking appropriate precautions to maintain the needed level of alertness. Help the pilot do those things listed above to improve their performance. Remember you may be the passenger in that aircraft and an alert and rested pilot may be in your best interest!
Managing fatigue is vital to conducting safe and effective flying operations. Understanding the causes of fatigue and how to counter their effects will defiantly increase the pilots’ level of safety.