When everyone is tired

A interesting report from a few years ago about exhaustion and fatigue in the cockpit. I find the lack of reporting to the airlines, and the lack of action taken by them quite disturbing.I wonder if it has changed much recently.


What I find amazing is that only 92% of the surveyed pilots stated that they had experienced fatigue. I honestly would have thought that number would be 100%. I personally think airline pilots have it the worst. The whole commute to where you work deal, crash-pads, crossing many, many timezones at once, and just the overall stress and time pressure of getting to your duty station (airports, taxis, trains, etc…) has to take a toll.

I have an unusual schedule in that I work 4 days ON, then usually have 4 days OFF, then switch to 4 NIGHTS ON, then 4 more days OFF. So our schedule alternates nights and days in blocks. It can be kind of hard to adjust…and there have been some days and nights where my body just couldn’t sync up with the reality of the situation. With practice and planning though, you can mitigate fatigue. Mostly it is being self aware of your requirements and trying to impress on those around you that you need certain rest periods. The phone is the absolute worst though. I simply must have my cell phone on when my kid is at school in case there is an emergency - but it ringing during the day while I’m trying to sleep after or before a night shift is problematic. Lately, I’ve been able to use the iPhone features to only allow people in my “Favorites” list to ring…and that helps.

I think cargo pilots are lobbying for stricter rest and duty rules too…because they are often left out of the process. Those guys really operate in the wee hours of the night.

Interesting article. I’m going to print it out and take it in to work, the other pilots would find it interesting too.



Perhaps that 8% was still very new, either handles it very well(those do exist) or were afraid to answer.

Honestly, your schedule doesn’t sound too bad in theory, doesn’t mean the body always agrees ;). It’s strange to think that we all have an off day every now and then where we just won’t wake up properly and the day is a slog. Well pilots have that too and we don’t accommodate that properly as an industry as a whole.

During my Human Factors course it was drilled into my head that your body does not make up sleep during the weeks, it’s within a certain rhythm that it just doesn’t really leave.

Someone mentioned that the discrepancy with the UK compared to neighbouring countries was due to a different systems whereby the hours were a lot stricter. The EASA law has made it into the local law now allowing pilots to be awake for up to 22 hours as they are landing… That’s close to being drunk when looking at the response time and decision making capabilities of the brain…

With for us Europeans and the New EU regulations… I have to say that fatigue can easily be a problem. I guess that’s what happens when accountants get their hands on flight time limitations.