What Is the Impact on Airplane Pilots Work Hours and Stress on Flight Safety?

1 January 2017

Accuracy means something to me. It’s vital to my sense of values. I’ve learned not to trust people who are inaccurate. Every aviator knows that if mechanics are inaccurate, aircraft crash. If pilots are inaccurate, they get lost—sometimes killed. In my profession life itself depends on accuracy. ” –Charles A. Lindbergh Accuracy includes precision, if you aren’t paying attention how will anything ever be exact and precise? The time pilots spend behind the controls of an air craft can be anywhere from one hour to fifteen hours.

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The first and last twenty minutes of a flight are the most dangerous and stressful time for pilots, take-off, taxiing from gate to runway and back and touchdown. After fifteen hours of concentration the pilots usually won’t have enough energy to safely land the plane. So what is the impact on airplane pilots work hours and stress on flight safety? Pilots get stressed after fifteen hours of flying this is without any other factors that distract them from work.

The article Air India Pilots Threaten Indefinite Strike tells about the hardships of many pilots in India. A large number of our members (pilots) have informed us that owing to the psychological stress that they are under and bearing in mind the safety of passengers; they will be unable to operate flights on and after April 1st, until the management clears all the dues. ” (Indo Asian News Service) They later state, “Many have taken loans for their flying training, other share commitments to their parents and children, and many have complained that banks are hounding them to repay their loans. ” (IANS) This shows that the people who are flying planes have other things that are also on their mind.

Preoccupied, stressed out about problems at home won’t help with the problems of paying of the loans of their training. Airlines should make a conscious effort to help out pilots so they don’t have to be stressed with outside things while on the job. “Family first” a common cliche used in the world, this would explain why many pilots complain about family troubles while at work. The European Union is trying to help airline pilot. They are trying to reduce pilot’s hours from 15 hours to 14 hours at daylight and 12 hours at night. Alex Derry)

The European Cockpit Association Wants still more of a reduction on the number of hours that the pilots can work. (Alex Derry) The work hours are not the same numbers of hours they are sitting at the controls. They usually work be between 8 to 15 hours a day and only 13 to 6 are actually behind the controls of the aircraft cockpit. The hours are 1 to 2 hours more for work but still create stress on the pilots. The United Kingdom currently leads the way with the least amount of time pilots can fly continentally. Their regulations allow for the maximum hours a pilot can fly to be 10 hours and 15 minutes.

They are trying to get an exemption from the European Union’s vote so that they can feel their pilots are safe. It is great to see the number of countries that turn their heads to be aware of this increase. Then there are nations like Britain already passing laws to limit hours on already existing regulations. Then there are also countries like the United States that are doing research to test the limits of the human body that the world can then use. Additionally an interview by Denmark’s Politiken a pilot explained how he flew even though he felt unfit to fly as well as fatigued.

The pilot comments, “I thought that I should declare myself unfit, but flew nonetheless, during the flight, I made a lot of small mistakes, but luckily nothing happened. ” Many pilots feel that they will lose their job if they don’t show up to work because they are sick. A law was actually installed to make sure pilots didn’t fly if they felt unfit to fly. Still in a survey taken in 2010, 61 pilots were asked if they had piloted an aircraft when they had felt unit to fly, 80% said they had and they felt pressured to do it.

Another 34% said they had flown unfit five times in the past five years. (Alex Derry) If the passengers in the plane had known this they might not have flown the plane that trip. It’s a daunting thought that as you sit in the airplane your pilot may be sleeping and you would never know about it. The ICE (Inter City Express) trains in Germany have installed petals that must be pressed every minute to 30 seconds otherwise the train will shut off automatically. Something like this maybe a good idea on planes to make sure the pilot or the co-pilot stays awake.

This could also help air traffic controllers and the Federal Aviation Administration see and curve the amount of planes where pilots fall asleep. So the question arises, why do the pilots feel pressured? Workers for many airlines are under constant strain of work because or the budget cuts within the company. (Eastern Worker) Often companies seem to not acknowledge that they make their employees work so hard. What makes the company pressure the pilots? How the companies have handles the rise of fuel prices is by cutting personnel, meaning the people who are left need to work more hours to fill the spots of the people that left.

To create a scenario, you fly from Gainesville to Charlotte and back two times every day. US Airways decides they don’t have to money to pay another pilot and you receive their hours too. Now you will fly back and forth four times. The time you now get to spend with your family has been decreased so you worry more about what is happening at home and you get less free time so you get less time to rest. So another pilot gets dismissed so US Airways has you running the max hours they can every day for regional flights, 10 hours.

This means you spend every second night in Gainesville and one in Charlotte, unless there is an open seat on the returning flight. It is easy to see how the company can make it so the pilot could be so stressed about his or her work. A story by the Eastern Worker tells of a tragedy that occurred from lack of sleep of an Air India pilot. On May 22, 2010 a flight from Dubai to Mangalore killed 158 passengers and crew and left only 8 people alive. The pilot was suffering from “sleep inertia. ” He fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the plane was on its decent.

When he reached the airport’s landing strip he only had 244 meters left, he had over flown the other 2,156 meters of runway. The plane ended up hitting a wall and sliding into the adjoining valley. The black box which contains vital flight information was found and they heard cockpit noises of deep snoring and heavy breathing and an argument after touchdown whether or not to take off again. (Eastern Worker) Eliminating arguments between the captain and the co-pilot could have saved the plane but then it would depend who is right the pilot isn’t always correct.

As the plane needs a certain length of runway to safely land this should be the overall determiner to whether or not the plan could land. This is an extreme case of what can happen. The pilot fell asleep for half the flight and then he wakes up and is disoriented and has a slow reaction time when it comes time to land the plane. Not all cases are like this though. In 2006, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and Delta signed an agreement authorizing Delta pilots to fly 16-17 hour flights between the U. S. and India. Aviation Today’s Daily Brief) These are very long hours of work for the pilots so before they are allowed to fly again they must rest 48 hours before departing on the return leg. This spied lawsuits about how long the pilots must rest the final decision lay at 48 hours minimum to 96 hours maximum. June 2008, the FAA held an aviation fatigue management conference; it was the first event ever that focused on fatigue in all aspects of aviation; whether it occurred aboard an aircraft, in the hanger, enroute, or in air traffic control towers. This provided scientists data to work on something.

The research shows that relatively little is known about the subtle effects of fatigue on the performance of flight crew during normal long haul flight operations. (Aviation Today’s Daily Brief) The research was aimed to find three big things, to get more current data and information on fatigue physiology, develop common theories about fatigue as well as identify challenges, and finally, make connections to make new moving patterns for goods. This experiment was done using crews of airplane staff and testing their reflexes in real life situations.

The were two groups, a rested group that had gotten four days in a row off after a long haul flight and a second group that had just gotten off the long haul flight. Needless to say the group with the four days of no work did better in the scenarios. The simulator they were put in made them fly a normal route with a series of operational threats to create more stress and work for the crew. The results showed the FAA what needs to be worked on to create a better performance while flying long haul flights.

The results also showed the little amount we know about fatigue and the affects on humans. So what is the impact on airplane pilots work hours and stress on flight safety? Pilots are impacted by stress and long work hours. The safety of the plane is at risk as soon as the pilot is sleep deprived or under strain. Ususally this is not a problem but in extreme cases it is. I think that airline companies need to put a limit on the number of hours a pilot can fly this should be decided on by research into such things. On the

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