French newspaper Le Figaro has reported that the American National Sleep Foundation reveals that pilots and other transport professionals suffer from fatigue and drowsiness, due to shift hours and inadequate hours asleep.
Indeed, a quarter of pilotsa (23%) acknowledge that fatigue and lack of sleep disrupts their work and for this to happen to them at least once in the week. One in five (20%) admits that s/he has made a serious mistake because of problems following interrupted sleep patterns. These disturbing figures are the result of the first survey of all transportation professionals – drivers, conductors, drivers – about their sleep habits and behavior at work. A survey by the NSF shows that these professionals who travel great distances and over a long period are those who complain of the most erratic sleeping. Nearly two-thirds of train drivers (57%) and half of drivers (50%) admit not having a single good night’s sleep during their working period..
One pilot in ten falls into the category of people with a serious lack of sleep, according to the NSF. “It is not permissible. Who can agree to have one in ten chance of getting on a plane with an exhausted pilot? ” protested Edward Edens. Over 250 aviation accidents were due to fatigue, during the last twenty years, according to the American Aviation Safety Agency.
Transport professionals believe that their lack of sleep is due to the many changes in their schedule. Only 6% of drivers and 47% of train drivers say they have the same schedule every day against 76% for the rest of the population. “Pilots like the people who work in three shifts have synchronization problems of their biological clock. Everyone agrees on that, “says Joëlle Adrien, a neurobiologist at Inserm.
The situation is similar for the train drivers. 26% say they feel tired on the job and 18% admit that they almost made a blunder through lack of vigilance. The proportion is lower (14%) among truck drivers. When they go home or they go to work by car, 6% of them had a day an accident for having fallen asleep, six times more than the rest of the population. “We should all worry about these numbers,” said Sanjay Patel, Harvard Medical School, who participated in the survey.
(Terry has worked with staff in the airline industry and has witnessed staff asleep in their cars on the side of the road following a long distance flight.)
To avoid excessive fatigue, the pilots use a nap. “A short nap is a great countermeasure against fatigue. It is a tool to recover alertness, “says Joëlle Adrien. “It is more restorative for people from countries with a good culture nap,” says Samira Bourgeois-Bougrine of Paris V University, who conducted many tests on behalf of Qatar Airways before the opening of the Qatar-Houston line.
The NSF study does not address the regulatory side or planning management advised by authorities or manufacturers such as Airbus. “There are a lot of measures to manage the risk of fatigue in the airlines,” reassures Samira Bourgeois-Bougrine. Measures that rely on the vigilance flight tests and surveys of drivers. European regulations require rest periods before and after the flight that consider the travel time and the time difference, says one to Air France. The company also reports peeler flight commanders to see if signs of fatigue are possibly mentioned.