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Features Pilots
Fighting Fatigue

There are better countermeasures than coffee to combat weariness 


October 1, 2007
By Nikolas Chapman

Topics

PILOT FATIGUE continues to be an important concern throughout the
aviation industry. Ongoing research has determined its causes and led
to countermeasures to limit its detrimental effects. The importance of
this research cannot be underestimated, especially in today’s world of
demanding schedules and advancing technology. But how has this science
influenced regulators, operators and pilots?

Numerous
aviation accidents have well defined the dangers associated with pilot
fatigue. Flying in itself creates a number of factors. These can
negatively affect flight operations by impairing an individual’s
alertness and performance.

Recent studies by the US National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have attempted to explain
the physiological mechanisms underlying fatigue and to demonstrate how
this knowledge can be applied to improve flight-crew sleep, performance
and alertness. One particular study suggests: “While acknowledgement of
this scientific information is increasing, its transfer to operations
offers the greatest potential for its benefit.”

For this
information to be integrated by operators and pilots it needs to be
readily available. Transport Canada’s Transportation Development Centre
(TDC) is undertaking its own research on pilot fatigue. The main
objectives of this project are “to establish fatigue profiles for
individual pilots, to develop tools that allow pilots to monitor their
own fatigue levels, and to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of
fatigue countermeasures.”

Training videos, CDROMs, and other teaching aids are currently available from Transport Canada’s System Safety Department.

Transport
Canada will consider running a human factors training seminar for
operators who have requested, and received approval, from the regional
manager of civil aviation. “We used to run this course on a monthly
basis; however, we are now recommending consultants who offer similar
services to interested parties,” Med Velasco, Regional Aviation Safety
Officer for Transport Canada Pacific Region, said.