Pilot Stress and Fatigue
II. Pilot Stress and Fatigue
III. Factors that lead to Pilot Stress and fatigue
a. Acute Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue
b. Anger signs of Fatigue
IV. Stress in Pilot
a. Impact of stress
V. Air crashes related to Pilot Stress and Fatigue
VI. Combating Pilot Stress and Fatigue
Piloting is a very demanding job. It involves an enormous cognitive task that includes navigati ng, communicating, picking a fuel- efficient route, detecting and diagnosing system malfunction, and flying the aircraft. Piloting is also physically demanding. In many cases, pilots are required to report for duty after only a cou ple of hours sleep. This exposes them to a condition called pilot fatigue. Pilot stress and pilot fatigue are a perfect combination o f an aircraft disaster. They take-away the capability of pilots to become situationally aware. Situational awareness is key to every aircraft travel. A slight drop in the level of situational awareness of pilots can instantly lead to disaster. Pilots must have a high level of situational awareness in order to have an overview of the total operation and they are not focused on only one perceived significant factor (Wagner 2015). Stress and fatigue are recipes for disaster. Pilots must be evaluated regularly for fitness to fly including competency in the airplane. If the pilot is adversely affected by stress or fatigue, then he is not fit to fly. Pilots are always exposed to fatigue but are not aware of it. They may also be experiencing severe stress, but believe that they can still fly an aircraft. Pilot stress and fatigue are the number recipe for air travel disaster. These two elements should be given special attention. Policies, programs, and practices should be sent back to the drawing table if there is evidence that they are not sufficient to prevent pilot stress and fatigue.
II. Pilot Stress and Fatigue
In aviation stress often means psychological stress as a result of a pilot’s perceived gap between task demands and task performance especially when the task is meaningful to them. It could also be the result of failure to meeting demands. Fatigue, on the other hand, refers to the physiological state of reduced mental or physical performance as a result of stress itself, lack of sle ep due to long work hours, workload or changes in sleep patterns. Fatigue can also increase the level of stress a pilot is experiencing because it prevents a pilot from doing their task efficiently and a gap between demands and task performance is created which then contribute to stress. Fatigue and stress are prevalent among pilots because they are often exposed to long duty cycles and irregular work shifts that require them to stay awake for several hours. Their work often makes them experience sleep deprivation. They are often required to stay awake for several hours, to engage in irregular work shifts and long duty cycles (Gander, 2015). Pilot stress and fatigue is a serious aviation issue because it can have a significant impact on the work performance of a pilot. Pilot s need alertness to maintain the high level of situational awareness. Pilot stress and fatigue reduce the pilot’s capability to communicate, observe, make decisions and other flight-related actions.
III. Factors that lead to pilot fatigue and stress
Fatigue and stress are the number one threat to air travel safety. They are the reasons why pilots make mistakes. Among the mistakes include missed radio calls, failure to evaluate a position, flying to the wrong altitude, and botched . There was also an incident that a pilot and the copilot fall asleep. Pilot unions and other concern groups are pressuring lawmakers to revise rules regarding pilot’s fatigue (Blogut, 2015).
Pilot fatigue is caused by two physiological phenomena. These are sleep loss and disruption of the body clock . Sleep loss is the lack of required hours of sleep. Body clock is known as the Circadian rhythm. It allows an organism to wake up at the same time every day even without an alarm clock. When this is disrupted, the physiological and behavioral processes of an individual is disrupted. The physiological process need s a 24-hour cycle. These include sleep, digestion, detoxification, hormone secretion and others. Certain physiological processes take place within a 24-hour basis. Examples are sleep-wake cycles, digestion, hormon e secretion etc. The body clocks set the rhythm to the appropriate time of the day. This is the reason why people get hungry during lunchtime and feel sleepy at night. A pilot’s body clock is disrupted by a variety of factors. These include; crossing of time zones and the changing from a day work shift to a night shift. The body needs an amount of time to adjust to the new schedule. If the body cannot adjust, it will experience the same effects of sleep loss. The body clock disruption produces similar effects to those of sleep loss. When body clock disruption and sleep loss occur together, the negative effects are compounded.
a. Acute fatigue and Chronic Fatigue
Acute fatigue can happen when there is short-term sleep loss or an instant change in body clock. The pilot can recover from this type of fatigue after a good sleep or after the body had adjusted to the change. Acute fatigue can also occur after a short period of heavy mental or physical work. It easily departs after the individual take a rest. Chronic fatigue is caused by intermittent sleep loss and body clock disruption for a long period. This is the case for pilots. Their work exposed them to chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue is also the issue in this paper.
Sleep researcher Dr. Mark Rosekind, revealed that pilot fatigue accounts for around 15-20 percent of all aviation accidents (Gander, 2015). In the study by NASA, it was revealed that about 70 percent of the pilots confirm that they nodded while inside the cockpit. This suggest s that pilot fatigue is rampant (Craig, 2012).
b. Danger Signs of Chronic Fatigue
There are dangers signs of chronic fatigue and pilot should be aware of these signs to recognize that he is already in a dangerous situation (Craig, 2012), These danger signs include Eyes going in and out of focus, yawning persistently, head nodding involuntarily, wandering thought, forgetfulness, disorganized daydreaming and losing control of accuracy. Solutions include talking with crewmembers, short naps, proper diet and nutrition, Stretching and physical activity and gradual shift are also considered as effective countermeasures (Li, 2002).
IV. Stress in Pilot
A variety of factors can induce stress among pilots, eye fatigue can cause pilot stress. It is due to faulty eyesight and improper lighting (Blogut 2015). If the light in the cockpit is too strong, eye fatigue occurs. Intermittent light can also cause stress. Intermittent light lets pilots focus mor e on other machines or aircrafts’ when this light did not adapt to sight such as when in a cloudy sky, the pilots may become bothered and experience stress. Sickness can also produce stress among pilots. When pilots have illness’s, their body divert s the energy to fight the illness. Pilots will have little energy left for other duties such as flying an aircraft. Human performance weakens during sickness. This causes stress among pilots. Psychological and emotional stress may also be triggered by the pilot’s personal lives. Personal problems may interfere with a pilot’s job making them feel incapable of doing their task. Occupational stress is related to pilot fatigue. When the pilot experiences fatigue his level of stress increased.
a. Impact of Stress
Pilots who can no longer withstand stress while on flight often resort to automation. This means that automatic pilot will take over and pilots assume a secondary role. Stress disrupts concentration and inability to cope up with stress decrease the pilot’s level of situational awareness. This can have an adverse impact on flight.
V. Air Crashes related to pilot Stress and fatigue
The Colgan Air Flight 3407 air crash that killed 45 passengers and two pilots, was a pilot stress and fatigue case (CNN.com 2009). It injured four bystanders. Upon investigation, it was found out that there was no other reason for the crash except for pilot fatigue. Pilots have suffered severe sleep loss before boarding the flight. Another example is the American Airlines flight 1420 accident. It overran the end of the runway in 1999 killing 11 people including the pilot and injuring 145 staffs and passengers. Initially, the thunderstorm and heavy rain were believed to be the cause of the accident, but when the report was submitted, pilot fatigue was the culprit.
VI. Combat Pilot Stress and Fatigue
Stress and Fatigue is the number one threat to aviation safety. There are calls to renew the policies. Advocates are now pressuring policymakers to revised rules regarding pilot’s fatigue (Blogut, 2015). Policies and procedure should be renewed and redesigned with pilot fatigue and stress in mind. The long waking hours should be kept in check. Research should be conducted and presented to all stakeholders. This is a correctable danger. A pilot’s schedules are closely monitored and they are not allowed to board if suffering sleep deprivation.
Pilot fatigue is a threat not only to the aviation industry but to the entire society. When the plane crashes due to pilot fatigue, civilians die. It can be corrected if there were strong laws and policies that prevent a pilot from boarding the plane while suffering from sleep deprivation. Companies may create policies that will properly schedule pilots or hire additional pilots to allow others to recover from body clock disruption and sleep deprivation. The only way to combat pilot fatigue and stress is to give them rest schedule. For stress, counseling sessions can be helpful. Proper policy is still the best solution to combat pilot stress and fatigue.
Blogut, A. (2015). Stressing Factors in Aviation. Proceedings of the Scientific Conference AFASES., 1 (2) p165-170.
This article discussed the various factors that cause stress in the aviation industry with an emphasis on stress that affects the pilot. This article identified several stressors, such as eye fatigue, personal problem, organizational problems, and sickness. This article also tackles the solution to combat the problem including advocacy for the renewal of laws and policies regarding pilot schedules and aircraft hiring practices.
Li G, (2002). Human Factors in Aviation Crash Aviat Space Environ Med. 73(2):134-8.
This article discussed human factors in aviation crash and fatigue is said to be the culprit. It identifies dangers signs and provided initial measures when dangers signs are present.
Craig A. (2012). Prevalence of fatigue among commercial pilots Occupational Medicine 56(4):263-268.
This article discussed the prevalence of pilot fatigue. It states that the problem is rampant and must be given serious attention. The article describes the danger signs and informs pilots that knowing danger signs can preven t disasters. Solutions to deal with dangers signs were also discussed. This information was included in the paper to provide insights on how to deal with danger signs.
Cnn.com (2009). Pilot Fatigue http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/05/15/pilot.fatigue.buffalo.crash/index.html.
This site discussed pilot fatigue and provided examples of the air crashes that are caused by pilot fatigue and stress. The information was helpful to the researcher as it provides evidence on how pilot stress and fatigue can really lead to disaster.
Gander, P. (2015). Effects of sleep/wake history and circadian phase on proposed pilot fatigue safety performance indicators. Journal of Sleep Research. 24 (1) p110-119.
This is a sleep research that studies the impact of sleep deprivation among pilots. The researcher measures the performance of a pilot during full sleep, wake history, and sleep deprivation history. The article discussed the impact of sleep deprivation among pilots. It presupposed that the issue is a serious social issue and a concern to everyone. The sleep deprivation research was conducted to give the society an idea on how dangerous a sleep deprive pilot can be once inside the cockpit.
Wagner, M. (2015) Grip Force as a Measure of Stress in Aviation the International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 25(3–4), 157–170
This article discussed the pilot fatigue and pilot stress. It provides an accurate description of stress and fatigue in the aviation industry. The author’s description was utilized in the paper. The author discussed situational awareness and claimed that pilot fatigue adversely affects this important element of a pilot’s job. Without situational awareness, the pilot was flying dangerously.