Fatigue is a growing concern and issue in the aviation industry. Although it has been for some time, recently mounting workloads and stress have factored into creating an escalating problem with real casualties and repercussions. “Pilot fatigue, heavy workloads… may have contributed to an air ambulance crashing into the sea at night during a medical mission…” (Crash Blamed 2006 p.31). Fatigue is an “insidious” condition that affects a pilot in a way that might make him feel justified in his decisions. (Wald 2008 C3). Without realizing the effects of sleepiness and stress, pilots often times make the wrong decision, believing it to be the right one, and suffering severe consequences, such as: passenger injures, crew injuries or even death, which occurs more often than not.
Even though a pilot is well trained and may feel competent, he/she is still human and needs to recharge. (Waking up 2009 pB2). It behooves the industry, pilots, and citizens to carefully and stringently review and resolve scheduling issues as well as human factor for the sake and safety of all.
Commute, Workload, Salary Help to Induce Fatigue
There are several immediate causes of fatigue that pilots encounter. An immediate cause of pilot exhaustion is simply the pilot not getting sufficient hours of sleep. “This is not a 9-to-5 job, being an airline pilot, and how common is it to be flying when you really haven't had a night's sleep for many, many hours, and frankly, when you might be more tired than you should be?” (Were Crash Pilots…) Moreover, a pilot’s demanding expectations concerning paperwork and admin duties are also partly to blame. “A pilot’s exhaustion caused by his heavy administrative workload…contributed to the fatal crash of his RAF jet.” (Fatal RFA Jet Crash…)
The deeper causes of pilot fatigue go hand-in-hand with the immediate causes and worsen the problem exponentially. Many pilots commute to and from the airport where he/she is assigned. This isn’t always vehicle commute. A number of pilots travel as a passenger by plane to get to the airport- only to travel once more as the pilot-in-command. “The co-pilot, of a commuter jet that crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., commuted to Newark Airport from her parents' home in Seattle, Washington.” (Strickland) This co-pilot has reported earnings of $17,000/year with a regional jet carrier, which brings in the second cause: Salary. “…the cab driver who takes you to the airport makes more than the pilot who's going to fly you…” (Strickland) A pilot’s salary, when it is not complimentary of his/her responsibility, is a stress inducer, which contributes more mental baggage that the pilot must carry.
Industry Flaws Accentuate Stress/ Lack of Resources
System flaws account for scheduling issues. When there are not enough pilots to cope with the heavy traffic flow, the same pilots are being scheduled more often and for longer periods of time. “CAPA has suggested lowering the actual duty time of...