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80% of pilots admit flying while tired

Old 08-05-2006, 07:54 PM
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Default 80% of pilots admit flying while tired

80% of pilots admit flying while too tired
RICHARD GRAY ([email protected])

EIGHTY per cent of airline pilots flying within the UK and Europe admit to suffering tiredness that impairs their judgment, a disturbing new study has revealed.

Short-haul pilots claim they are routinely asked to fly extra hours - which should be reserved for dealing with delays and emergencies - to meet packed airline schedules.

In the skies above the UK, an average of one "near miss" a month is now blamed on pilot fatigue, and concern is growing that mounting pressure on tired aircrew could lead to tragedy.

The researchers spoke to one pilot who admitted he was too tired to drive home after completing a flight, pulled over to the side of the road and fell asleep for hours.

The team, from the University of Central England, Birmingham, conducted their research on an airline pilot website closed to the general public. More than 160 short-haul pilots responded to the survey, details of which are published in the journal Occupational Medicine.

"Severe fatigue" was reported by 75% of the pilots. A total of 81% complained that their tiredness was worse than two years ago. Most disturbing of all, 80% reported flying while their judgment was impaired by tiredness.

According to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules, aircrew making more than seven flights a day must not spend more than nine hours on duty, from the moment they report for a flight to the completion of post-flight tasks.

Pilots are allowed to use up to an extra three "discretion" hours to cope with exceptional delays in the air or on the runway. But Dr Craig Jackson, a health psychologist involved in the study, claims short-haul airlines, particularly budget airlines, are using this extra time as part of their daily roster in a bid to cram in more flights on a route. Jackson said 21% of pilots reported regularly flying into their "discretion periods".

He said: "This is a shocking finding. If you make a mistake at 30,000ft it is a little bit different from a worker who has not got several hundred people's lives in their hands."

Jackson added that the problem was not just restricted to the budget airlines, and scheduled airlines were also pushing the flying time limits.

"Although the budget airlines have driven these changes by running 10 flights a day, the other scheduled airlines are trying to keep up and pushing their own pilots as much as they legally can."

According to official figures from the CAA, there is more than one air safety incident every month on UK-registered commercial airlines involving flight crew fatigue. Since 2004 there have been 45 incidents reported.

One pilot involved in the study said he had felt so tired after flying eight journeys in a day that as he drove home he was forced to pull in at the side of the road and woke up several hours later.

Last night the British Airline Pilots Association said it had grave concerns about the level of fatigue its members were now suffering. A spokesman said: "The UK has some of the best guidelines on flying hours in the world that take account of both the time of flights and the number of flights.

It would be very concerning if airlines were encouraging pilots to fly into their discretion hours routinely."

But Roger Wiltshire, secretary general of the British Air Transport Association, said: "There are very strict limits on the number of hours pilots can fly and these are quite small in comparison to other workers.

"I'm sure passengers have experience of when airlines have had to delay flights as their air crews have gone out of hours. Fatigue is an important safety issue and airlines take it very seriously."

A spokeswoman for budget airline easyJet added that it had conducted its own research into fatigue and had taken steps to combat it. She said: "No other airline in the world has taken a more comprehensive approach to the study of the effects of fatigue as easyJet.

"This research led to the introduction of a number of new initiatives, processes and procedures such as new roster patterns and a fatigue risk management system."

A BA spokeswoman said it was the only UK airline to allow pilots to choose their own flight rosters in a similar way to pilots in New Zealand. She said: "British Airways has a good track record in demonstrating awareness of the issues of fatigue.

"A range of strategies are used to address the problems, including the use of augmented crews, flight crew bunks and the facility for any crew member to declare themselves as unfit to fly due to subjective fatigue."

THE stress involved in landing an aircraft is so great that the pilot and co-pilot must share the job between them.

While one of them takes control during the approach to an airport, the other takes over in time to land the craft safely.

They run through pages of checklists before they even begin their final approach, while a constant vigil is needed for other aircraft.

Simple mistakes can set in motion a string of events that can lead to an accident.

But pilots, who earn 30,000 to 70,000 a year, fear their ability to cope in this high-pressure environment is being impaired by psychological and physical fatigue.

A retired pilot, who asked not to be named, said: "When you are flying for six or seven hours a day, making several landings and take-offs, it requires a huge amount of concentration.

"The fatigue can be cumulative and it can be difficult to catch up with sleep if you are doing early or late flights."

He added: "I don't think I realised quite how bad it was until I retired and started sleeping properly - it took me months to catch up on sleep."

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1138482006

Last updated: 05-Aug-06 00:13 BST
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Old 08-06-2006, 02:13 AM
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It's safe to say that to pilots, this isn't even news... It's the rare pilot that doesn't need a little shuteye on a long transcon or redeye.
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Old 08-06-2006, 04:43 AM
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Redeyes don't bother me at all. Done lots of them and I follow a schedule that prefpares me for the night flight.. It's the "get to the hotel after a 14 hr day for a minimum rest period, get hardly any sleep, then go do another 12 - 13 hr duty day".
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Old 08-06-2006, 05:08 AM
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I had a phone call from ALPA the other day doing a fatigue study. They called about an hour after I got home from work. I told them I was too fatigued to take the survey. When they publish te results of this survey I think you will find the results very similar to the UK study.

I only wish we had rules as good as the UK. 9 hour duty day? Come on, try 12-14 with the minimum sleep. Anytime managment thinks we get enough rest I think they should have to shadow a crew. Make them sit in the jumpseat so they cant just kick back and relax, they cant leave the aircraft until the crew is ready to leave it, and they must stick with the crew for atleast 1 full sequence. And it can't be some cherry picked out and back either. It has to be one of the crappier lines. As much of a pain in th @$$ it would be having them along, I'd do it.
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Old 08-06-2006, 09:21 AM
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it looks like 20% of the pilots didn't tell the truth on that survey...
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Old 08-06-2006, 09:32 AM
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I guess the two things that really frustrate me about this are....

1. The fact that this has been a known issue since I was a small child... in fact I even remember seeing a 20/20 report about it when I was about 8 or 10 years old... and yet seemingly nothing has been done about it except for a couple of studys and no action taken by the FAA or airline management to remedy the situation....

2. Always remember if you are tired call in fatigued but dont call in fatigued cause we'll fire your A$$ for it.....

and on a side note I have spent this last week doing nothing but illegals (standup overnights, highspeeds, CDO's or whatever other name they go by) before that I had a trip that involved a 16 hour duty day with reduced rest to follow.... Needless to say I felt like I was going to die from it.... Where is the safety in all of that and why doesnt the FAA do something about this Bull $hit.
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Old 08-06-2006, 08:29 PM
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80% of the day im tired
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Old 08-06-2006, 08:57 PM
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kinda like 80% of the day I jack off.... oh wait I just said / admitted that.. amazing what 6 manhattans will do for you
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Old 08-06-2006, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Space Monkey
kinda like 80% of the day I jack off.... oh wait I just said / admitted that.. amazing what 6 manhattans will do for you


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Old 08-07-2006, 05:28 AM
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The FAA hasn't done anything because there hasn't been enough blood and/or money to pressure them to change anything. They are a reactionary agency. Every FAR is written in blood or backed by money. Until that happens, expect overnights to be shrunk to minimums and duty days expanded to maximums because companies want to increase utilization to maximize profits.
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