Ever since two pilots fell asleep in the cockpit of a Bombardier CRJ operating as Go! Flight 1002 during a February 2008 flight from Honolulu to Hilo, Hawaii, the NTSB has urged the FAA to tackle the issue of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among pilots. The captain of that aircraft was diagnosed with severe OSA after the flight.
Proposed legislation addressing sleep apnea will require pilots to be tested for sleep apnea, but maintenance personnel, who are not required to pass an FAA physical, are not addressed.
India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has announced support for periods of controlled cockpit rest for pilots. In an August 15 operations circular, the DGCA calls the naps, which are to be allowed on flights of at least three hours, “effective fatigue mitigation tools.”
Humans, by our very nature, are daytime creatures. Our brains and our bodies have been hardwired for this, and not even the fairly recent (in evolutionary terms) innovation of artificial light can change hundreds of thousands of years of development. In response to darkness, our brains produce a chemical known as melatonin, which makes us sleepy, yet these days we are far removed from the agrarian “get up when it’s light out, go to bed when it’s dark” lifestyle of just a few centuries ago.
Despite improved crew rest stations on airline and business aviation aircraft today, concerns about pilot fatigue will never disappear entirely. In association with NBAA, California-based fatigue specialists Alertness Solutions has developed for flight departments a downloadable guide called The Alert Crew. It outlines the top issues time-zone-jumping crewmembers should regularly consider to remain at peak performance.
Jeppesen introduced an improved version of its CrewAlert mobile app that helps aircraft crewmembers deal with fatigue risk management. The updated app can instantly calculate a strategy from up to 900,000 sleep patterns and light exposure combinations to increase crew alertness and overall flight safety. It also contains built-in scientific mitigation strategies automatically calculated to fit to the roster and individual settings such as individual sleep requirements and commute times, among others.
International flight crews share a never-ending need for a good night’s rest. Now there’s a proven link between exercise in moderation and sleep quality. A new report from the National Sleep Foundation studied 1,000 adults between ages 23 and 60 and found that those who exercised in the seven days before the survey reported better quality of sleep than those who did not. Surprisingly, both groups averaged about the same number of hours of total rest–just short of seven.
The FAA’s recent reinterpretation of crew rest guidance sparked a vigorous discussion at the Flight Safety Foundation Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar in San Antonio last week.
Jeppesen plans to conduct an industry-wide survey in April to collect airline pilot and cabin crew fatigue data. The study will be conducted in collaboration with sleep and performance scientists, using the Jeppesen CrewAlert iPhone app to collect data directly from crewmembers. The study will advance understanding on how crew fatigue issues develop in an operational setting, Jeppesen said.
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