Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Crew Schedules, Sleep Deprivation, and Aviation Performance

25.04.2012
Night-time departures, early morning arrivals, and adjusting to several time zones in a matter of days can rattle circadian rhythms, compromise attention and challenge vigilance. And yet, these are the very conditions many pilots face as they contend with a technically challenging job in which potentially hundreds of lives are at stake.
In an article to be published in a forthcoming issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, John A Caldwell, a psychologist and senior scientist at Fatigue Science, a Honolulu business focusing on fatigue assessment, examines the problem of sleep deprived pilots by teasing out the complex interplay of inadequate sleep and circadian rhythms. He explains how airline industry solutions miss the point and then suggests other options.

Caldwell points out that “fatigue-related performance problems in aviation have been consistently underestimated and underappreciated, despite the fact that decades of research on pilots and other operational personnel has clearly established that fatigue from insufficient sleep significantly degrades basic cognitive performance, psychological mood, and fundamental piloting skills.”

Evidence abounds. In 2004, a corporate airlines flight crashed as it approached Kirksville Regional Airport; in 2008, Honolulu based pilots of Go! Airlines overshot their destination by more than thirty miles because they fell asleep during a trip that was only fifty minutes long. A Northwest Airlines Flight overflew its destination by 150 miles because pilots had dozed off at the controls. In 2009, fifty people were killed when a Continental Connection flight en route from Newark to Buffalo crashed into a house. Pilots failed to respond properly to a stall warning and the flight went out of control.

After examining what went wrong, the NTSB concluded that, “the pilots’ performance was likely impaired because of fatigue.” Since 1990 the US National Transportation Safety Board has placed pilot fatigue on the Most Wanted List of safety related priorities.

Why? Because as fatigue increases, “accuracy and timing degrade, lower standards of performance are accepted, the ability to integrate information from individual flight instruments into a meaningful and overall pattern declines, and attention narrows. “

In one study, F-117 pilots were deprived of one night of sleep and then were tested on precision instruments. Not only did pilot errors on those instruments double after one night of sleep loss, pilots reported feeling depressed and confused.

Clearly fatigue is fundamentally the result of insufficient sleep, but for pilots the important issue is the consequences of that sleep loss when they are sitting at the control panel. The author suggests that “fatigue related risks increase substantially when (a) the waking period is longer than 16 hours, (b) the preduty sleep period is shorter than 6 hours, or (c) the work period occurs during the pilot’s usual sleep hours.”

“Regulators, and often the pilots themselves, have tried to address the fatigue problem by focusing on duty hours rather than focusing on the physiological factors that are truly responsible,” Caldwell says. “The combination of insufficient sleep and circadian factors is at the heart of the fatigue problem in any operational context.”

The two most important variables for alertness are recent sleep and the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or “body clock.” What that means is that when a pilot reports for duty, he or she should have had from seven to nine hours of good sleep within a reasonable period of time before work and that as often as possible, the work schedule is in some harmony with the pilot’s natural daily rhythm.

The amount of time that a pilot is actually working is much less important. But that is the area airlines and regulators have focused on to address the problem. “Hours-of- service” regulations have been instituted to mitigate fatigue, but “that seems to be a function of convenience rather than science.” Caldwell writes that in traditional regulatory approaches “one hour of daytime flight in one’s home time zone after plenty of sleep is considered to generate the same amount of fatigue as an hour of nighttime flight” that was preceded by a transcontinental transition and sleep outside of a normal sleep cycle. Fortunately, new Federal Aviation Administration regulations better account for the true physiological nature of fatigue, but additional fatigue-management strategies are needed.

Caldwell acknowledges that the very nature of airline travel predisposes pilots to disrupted sleep schedules, but he points out several approaches that can both predict a truly impaired pilot and mitigate the consequences of a lack of sleep. There are some fatigue prediction models that can help determine the impact of work/rest schedules on aviator performance. Crew members should be educated on sleep hygiene so they can snag some restorative rest before duty or during layovers. Onboard cockpit napping should be authorized so that pilots will be able to compensate for a lack of sleep. And new wearable sleep-tracking technologies should be utilized to actually measure the pre-duty and layover sleep of flight crews so that they can better manage and optimize their own sleep.

“As a society, we must come to grips with the fact that the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep every single day,” he says. “And there is no amount of willpower, professionalism, training, or money that will prevent the performance losses associated with the failure to routinely acquire sufficient sleep.”

For more information about this study, please contact: John A. Caldwell at john.caldwell@fatiguescience.com.

Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of "Crew Schedules, Sleep Deprivation, and Aviation Performance" and access to other Current Directions in Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org

Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>