They say that flying is the safest way to travel, but that may only be because there aren’t as many planes in the sky as there are vehicles on the ground. Pilots are subject to the same issues that drivers are, and one of the biggest is fatigue.
Pilot unions and regulatory agencies continue to debate the issue instead of addressing what you and most other people would consider a serious threat to safety. Did your pilot just get off another flight without a break? Did your pilot’s new baby keep him or her up all night? Flying a plane requires making a lot of split-second decisions in an emergency. Is your pilot up to par, or is he or she so fatigued that a mistake could easily occur?
Common causes of pilot fatigue
Many of the common causes of pilot fatigue are the same as they are for anyone else. Pilots may not get enough sleep, eat a poor diet or fly at night, all of which interrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle. The common causes more specific to pilots include the following:
- Did you know that boredom causes fatigue? When pilots fly the same routes day in and day out, they can get bored and fatigued with the task.
- Pilots get jet-lagged just like anyone else when they fly through numerous time zones. It can mess with the ability to get quality rest before getting back into the cockpit.
- Even if a pilot has a substantial layover that allows for quality sleep, the pilot may not take advantage of it. He or she may only get a few hours of sleep and do other things during the remainder of the layover.
- A pilot’s commute to the airport where you are flying out of could be significant. He or she could even require a two- to three-hour flight before even getting into the cockpit here in Atlanta.
- As mentioned above, flying at night causes fatigue, especially on long-haul flight. Having an alternating schedule that requires both day and night shifts can exacerbate this.
Like long-haul truck drivers, government oversight agencies may need to impose limitations on the number of hours a pilot flies, and mandated rest periods. Planes malfunction more often than anyone would like to consider or admit, and if the pilot suffers from fatigue, he or she could make grave errors.
Even though there are usually at least two people in the cockpit, there may not be time to correct a mistake made by one of them, and the plane could crash. This could leave you or loved ones with serious injuries. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, a skilled attorney can be a valuable resource.