A businessman who just landed at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport one morning rushed to the bathroom after a red eye flight from Los Angeles. Passing the sink in the bathroom, he noticed a man who looked like he had just woken up and was shaving. He appeared to the businessman as a fellow businessman who must have spent the night at the airport in hopes to catch an early morning flight to where ever he was going. As he was washing his hands, the man from Los Angeles struck up a conversation and said, “You had to sleep here to make your flight? They should refund your ticket!” The man shaving had just finished and seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere, but he stopped and turned to look at him. He replied to the businessman, “I’m actually the pilot...”
This joke may be exaggerated a little bit, but in all reality, many commercial pilots who are flying thousands of people every day are not getting adequate sleep and are facing fatigue. This may be a scary thought to some who fly regularly. Passengers may doze off during flights but have you ever thought about your pilot nodding his head? Well, it happens, maybe more than we think. However, blame cannot be put fully on the pilots. There are many psychological reasons that explain why pilots can show up to work sleep deprived and fatigued. The articles I have chosen look at these reasons more clearly and give some solutions to combat fatigue as an airline pilot. They also look at some real life examples of the results of fatigued airline pilots.
The first article I read was from Psychology Today and starts out with the story of the Jet Blue pilot who had a breakdown in the middle of a flight in 2012. This story hit the news headlines describing a senior pilot who ran through the cabin of the plane shouting about a possible crash and the threat of a terrorist attack. As you can imagine, this scared many passengers as they watched their pilot scream disturbing statements. The co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit and requested for passengers to tackle him to the ground and restrain him. The passengers did just that and the copilot made an emergency landing. As soon as they made it on the ground, the pilot was arrested. While this very interesting and bizarre behavior by the pilot could be evaluated in its own psychological paper, research found that one of the main contributing causes to the outburst was fatigue.
The article contributed the constantly changing shift schedules, long hours, and short rest periods (8 hours currently, 10 hours in 2014) of pilots to be the three most contributing factors to sleep deprivation. The article also stated that these factors could lead to sleep disorders and future health risks such as depression and anxiety, which are associated with chronic sleep problems. In a survey among U.S. pilots, 23% were affected by sleepiness while flying in the past week while 20% said they made a “serious” error at one point in their career because they were...