Most of the Aviation accidents have been greatly attributed to “Pilot Fatigue” (Mohler, 1998). This is because a pilot’s input into the aircraft is majorly dependent on his consciousness on the job, therefore incase he or she may be fatigued then this provides room for error in his inputs (Smith, 2008). Even though the technological advancements in avionics the flight systems of the current aircrafts have preventive mechanisms put in place that makes sure that the pilots are always alert, without sleep and freshened, small effects of fatigue can greatly jeopardize flight safety (Mohler, 1998). This is so because the duties performed by the pilot in the cockpit require a lot of vigilance, care as well as both mental and physical well being and alertness. Having considered this it is very hard to eliminate the cockpit noise, aircraft vibration, the long flights; little sleep as well as irregular work schedules which are the major contributors to pilot fatigue and which can have great influence on his or her performance. This paper dissects the major factors that cause pilot fatigue; the impact of pilot fatigue as well as the damages associated with the same and concludes with ways of managing the same.
Defining Pilot Fatigue
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, 2009) fatigue is a subjective feeling of tiredness which in respect distorts one’s ability to concentrate on a particular task and the task often seems difficult even though the one performing the task may be an expert in the same field. Jackson (2006) adds on to say that fatigue itself is a condition that reflects inadequate rest combined with a myriad of symptoms that are closely associated with displaced, interrupted or and disturbed biological rhythms. This therefore means that a fatigued pilot is mentally and physically incapacitated to perform his duties in the cockpit due to his in-ability to concentrate with his duties. This in-ability is coupled with negative impacts that hinder both his physical and mental processes e.g. sensorial perception, impaired muscular coordination, inept memory retrieval, impaired situational awareness, error management and adaptability, to mention but a few. Fatigue therefore impedes the pilot’s ability to carry-out his or her normal functions.
This fatigue can be greatly attributed to the state of tiredness which can be related to his or her long flight hours, prolonged periods without enough rest or and sleep as well as working at times that are not in rhythmic with his or her body’s biological or circadian mechanisms, (Mohler, 1998).
Types of Fatigue
There are two common classes of fatigue, namely: Acute fatigue and Chronic fatigue (Mohler, 1998). Acute fatigue is often experienced due to lack of inadequate sleep or what is termed as ‘short-term sleep’ or due to short periods of doing heavy physical or mental work. It is usually temporary and is treatable by just getting enough sleep, exercise and a balanced diet. On...