Pilot fatigue can be discussed as the important issue which influences negatively the development of the aviation industry and different aviation operations because pilots experience difficulties with controlling their activities during the long shifts or without having enough rest. As a result, pilot fatigue because of the weaknesses in schedules can lead to the unintentional micro-sleeps and dramatic aviation accidents caused by the pilots’ errors.
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From this point, it is necessary to resolve the problem and provide effective rules to control the pilots’ schedules and avoid fatigue. It is the task of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to work out and state the appropriate rules and norms to regulate the problematic situation and decrease the number of aviation accidents associated with the pilots’ errors and their fatigue. Thus, the FAA regularly develop appropriate regulations to respond to the issue, and it is important to focus on the Final Rule proposed by the FAA in 2011 to diminish the factors which can cause pilot fatigue (FAA issues pilot fatigue final rule, 2011). To discuss the problem in detail, it is necessary to focus on the definition of pilot fatigue and its causes, on the other associated issues experienced by pilots within the aviation industry, on the statistical data to discuss the issue, and on the effectiveness of the regulations provided by the FAA in order to control the situation.
The Importance of the Pilot Fatigue Issue
The role of the human factor in causing aviation accidents is significant; that is why pilot fatigue is a serious problem which requires an effective solution. The main causes for provoking pilot fatigue are long duty days and the increased work hours, the disruptions associated with circadian rhythm and sleep, and the absence of the adequate rest provided for pilots before and after the working shifts. Furthermore, pilot fatigue is the main cause for accidents during the night hours after the prolonged shifts when the crew cannot rely on enough time to rest (“FAA issues a final rule on pilot fatigue,” 2012). That is why effective strategies and rules should be developed to reduce the risks of pilot fatigue.
In spite of the fact that many aviation accidents are caused by different types of technical faults, the issue of pilot fatigue is important to be discussed separately because it is the key factor to affect the pilots’ errors during the flight. This idea is supported with references to the investigations conducted by researchers to examine the changes in the work of pilots’ brains during the prolonged shifts and after the long periods without any rest. The researchers focused on the electroencephalographic activity of the crew members to support their hypotheses and determine the connections between the physiological or biological processes and the periods without any adequate rest about the effect on the professional activities and provoking fatigue (Caldwell, 2005). From this perspective, the aspect of pilot fatigue cannot be ignored because the impact of physiology on the effectiveness of the performed operations is significant, and the ignorance of the human factor can become a serious problem faced by the aviation industry if the successful strategies are not proposed.
The Issues Experienced by Pilots in the Aviation Industry
Pilot fatigue can be discussed as the negative result of the issues experienced by pilots within the aviation industry. Thus, the conditions associated with the pilots’ activities make them feel tired and even exhausted after the typical working shift because of a lot of challenges which can be experienced during the flight. Stress and tension associated with the working conditions also contribute to the development of pilot fatigue because of the organisms’ impossibility to cope with tension effectively during the time fixed for resting.
Moreover, the additional stress is caused by the necessity to work during the night shifts after the prolonged duty days. Pilots are often expected to work for 14 hours without adequate rest. Such challenges as the technical problems, negative weather conditions, and problems with identifying the visual cues during the night flights can contribute to the development of pilot stress and fatigue (Notification and reporting of aircraft accidents, 2010). As a result, pilots experience physical and mental tensions and make errors which are discussed as caused because of the human factor.
The Statistical Data on the Problem of Pilot Fatigue
According to the different sources of the statistical data on the problem of pilot fatigue as the cause for aviation accidents, fatigue can be discussed as the direct cause for pilots’ lack of control and errors in 4-7% cases examined with references to the statistics of the civil aviation and safety centers (Caldwell, 2005). It is also stated with references to the national surveys that more than 25% of the aviation accidents are the results of the fatigue caused by the necessity to operate during night shifts. This data is relevant for the period of the 1990s (Caldwell, 2005). During the period of the 2000s, the percentage of the aviation accidents affected by the human factor in general and by the fact of pilot fatigue, in particular, remains to be rather high in spite of the fact that the numbers are decreased till 18% (Notification and reporting of aircraft accidents, 2010).
Focusing on the data connected with the pilots’ vision of the problem, it is important to note that pilots discuss fatigue as a serious problem which can affect their errors during the flights. Moreover, more than 70% of pilots state that they regularly experience fatigue while working because of the inconvenient schedule and impossibility to rest to satisfy the organisms’ needs in sleep (Caldwell, 2005). To reduce fatigue, pilots see the solution in changing the schedule to provide them with the possibility to correlate the periods of the activities and rest appropriately to the plan and the organisms’ needs. Thus, the statistical data on the problem support the idea to work out and implement the effective rules to reduce the level of fatigue experienced by pilots.
The Rules of the Federal Aviation Administration on the Rest Requirements
During 2011, the FAA proposed the most appropriate variant of the regulation rules to reduce the percentage of pilot fatigue experienced during the flights and caused a lot of aviation accidents. The variant of 2011 is proposed and announced as the final rule to regulate the schedule requirements and provide pilots with the possibilities to avoid fatigue caused by the inadequate schedules and long hours of the working shifts (Pilot fatigue rule, 2011).
Thus, the FAA focused on providing more flexible and various requirements to the pilots’ schedules in relation to the moment when their working days begin in order to correlate the start of the working day or shift with the periods fixed for having a rest and with the periods determined to start the new shift (FAA issues pilot fatigue final rule, 2011). The next important rule is associated with determining the allowable time of the duty period fixed according to the schedule to cope with the issue of fatigue.
The next important aspect is the fixed flight time limits, which are correlated with the start of the crew’s working shift or day. One of the most important rules is the requirement for the rest period for pilots to reduce the levels of fatigue. Thus, the number of hours for the rest is increased to ten hours, which are discussed as the required minimum (“Rule proposed to fight pilot fatigue,” 2010). One more important rule depends on the development of the effective fatigue risk management system, which is worked out to manage and control the fatigue issues among pilots with contributing to overcoming these issues.
Pilot fatigue is a controversial issue typical for the aviation industry, which can be discussed as the cause of many accidents as a result of the pilots’ errors. Pilots have difficulties with overcoming challenges during the flights, and they make errors when they feel fatigued affected by the inappropriate schedule and the accentuated imbalance between the periods of activity and rest. That is why the FAA focused on the development of the effective rules to control the problem and reduce the percentage of accidents associated with the issue. The main points of the new plan and requirements include the increased time for the rest and the more balanced rules related to the schedule.
Caldwell, J. (2005). Fatigue in aviation. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 3(2), 85-96. Web.
FAA issues final rule on pilot fatigue. (2012). Professional Safety, 57(2), 19-20. Web.
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FAA issues pilot fatigue final rule. (2011). Web.
Notification and reporting of aircraft accidents or incidents and overdue aircraft, and preservation of aircraft wreckage, mail, cargo, and records. (2010). USA: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc. Web.
Pilot fatigue rule: A major step forward for aviation safety. (2011). USA: Congressional Documents and Publications. Web.
Rule proposed to fight pilot fatigue. (2010). Professional Safety, 55(11), 23-24. Web.