Pilot Fatigue Options

Posted on 23. Jul, 2009 by in Featured

Fatigue is apparent, what is not, is an easy solution. Many options are being considered. Below is a sample of what I suspect is being considered.

1. Limit the first day of each sequence. The NTSB has statistics that show the first day of a sequence is the most dangerous. It has been attributed in the past to crew familiarity. With today’s standardization IMO that analysis does not hold up. A more likely cause is fatigue.
2. Limit duty days across the board. Fatigue is accumulative, multiple 16 hour days is a recipe for fatigue.
3. Limit total legs a day. Six or seven legs a day IMO is unsafe, regardless of length. IMO 3 should be the maximum.
4. Lower monthly maximums, currently 100 hours.
5. Lower yearly hours, currently 1,000 hours.
6. Circadian cycles must be incorporated. Flying the dawn launch two days in a row then on the third going to a hotel on the west coast at 10:00 AM so you can fly the red-eye back east is beyond fatiguing.
7. Crew rest must begin at your home domicile not on a trip. The current FAR is no more than six days in a row, a day off in Istanbul on the seventh makes you legal again, even if your domicile is New York.
8. Raise minimum hours between flights, currently 8. A crew lands, heads to the hotel (1 hour), gets dinner (1 hour) goes to bed and immediately falls asleep (.5 hour), wakes up and showers (.5 hour). Back on the van to get to the aircraft 1 hour prior (.5 hour). Three and a half hours of sleep maximum. This scenario is playing out every night all over America. How fatigued do you think they will be after 4 nights of this?

These are just a few put out for discussion; as always the devil is in the details. If you lower the daily maximum to 3 hours but do not change monthly max or days in a row, a pilot can spend an entire month, every month, on the road. You also must allow the crews to make a living; if the rules further degrade either the quality of life or pay of the crews ultimately safety will be lowered. It will adversely impact safety because the quality pilots will leave the profession, and those that stay will be working other jobs. It will be a tough balance; because hours equal dollars!

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