66% of pilots doze off in cockpit, reveals survey

66% of pilots doze off in cockpit, reveals survey

66% of pilots doze off in cockpit, reveals survey

MUMBAI: Around 66% of 542 Indian pilots who took part in a recent survey on fatigue triggering “daytime sleepiness” admitted to dozing off in the cockpit without alerting their fellow crew members or experiencing microsleep episodes while on the job.

The survey covered pilots engaged in regional, domestic and international operations and measured their fatigue levels on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. “Based on their responses, it was found that about 54% of the pilots suffer from severe excessive daytime sleepiness while 41% suffer from moderate daytime sleepiness,” said the survey carried out by NGO Safety Matters Foundation. This explains why 66% pilots said they had experienced micro-sleep or unintentionally fallen asleep in the cockpit, said the survey.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) defines fatigue as a physiological state of reduced mental or physical performance capability resulting from sleep loss or extended wakefulness, circadian phase, or workload that can impair a crew member’s alertness and ability to safely operate an aircraft or perform safety-related duties.

Fatigue is a known causal factor in aviation accidents and incidents. It was one of the contributory factors in the 2010 Mangalore crash which killed 158 people. “Residual sleepiness and impaired judgement were believed to have contributed to this accident. The cockpit voice recorder indicated that the Captain had been asleep for 1hr and 40 min of the 2hr and 5 min flight,” it said.

The pilots attributed back-to-back morning departures as the leading cause of fatigue (74%). The NGO’s founder, Capt Amit Singh, said: “The survey asked the pilot a question on the time they would get up if they had to report for a 6 am flight departure. Majority of the crew responded that they would wake up between 3am and 3:30am. This indicates that their body clock is interrupted at the most critical period of rest.

Circadian misalignment can make you feel drained and can have serious health consequences. Repeated flight duty in this period will not only affect sleep quality but over 10 -12 hrs duty will lead to poor cognition thereby affecting flight safety.”

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