Tips for Fatigue Management

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Technology can be a great thing … but does it seem like in today’s hyper-connected world, it’s made life more frantic?

Being connected 24/7 (to our employers, to our friends, to the media and even to our political leaders) has some benefits. But there’s a downside – our schedules are compressed, we’re required to do more and it’s harder to find some relaxing downtime.

Researchers are currently studying how this is affecting our sleep patterns. There’s no denying that for many adults in the U.S., our lives are busier and it’s harder to get rest. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.

Pilots are affected too, just like other adults.

The Difference Between Being Tired and Being Fatigued

When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you feel tired. When you feel tired on a consistent basis (even after getting a full night’s sleep), you could be suffering from fatigue. There’s a difference between the two.

Chronic fatigue is cumulative, built up over a long period of time. It just makes you feel worn out.

The FAA is very concerned about fatigue. They have sponsored a multi-disciplinary subject matter expert work group to investigate issues with fatigue. Check out its content and fatigue risk assessment tool here.

aircrew pilots tips for fatigue management

Fatigue Mitigation Strategies

Once you cross the line from being tired to being fatigued, it has a direct effect on performance. If you or your pilots are fatigued, you can typically spot the red flags:

  • Missing radio calls
  • Missing normal flows in cockpit
  • Being irritable or impatient

We have included numerous mitigation strategies in TrainingBoom’s Part 135 and Part 121 online training modules. Some of them include:

  • Turning on the light in the cockpit
  • Moving around
  • Planning rest around trips; taking naps or catnaps
  • Drinking coffee
  • Exercise
  • Adjusting your room so you sleep in a completely dark room using blackout curtains, earplugs, and a sound machine, and keeping the optimal sleep temperature of 65-67 F
  • Turning your phone off (or keeping on DND mode)

Crew members should monitor and recognize the signs of being fatigued. If a pilot is fatigued – call in another. Most carriers have multiple pilots.

However, some carriers don’t have enough pilots and have to cancel the flight if a pilot calls in fatigued. Pilots might be reluctant to shoulder the blame for not having adequate rest. This is a tough situation. Safety is the foundation of our industry, though, and pilots shouldn’t fly when fatigued.

The best solution is to keep your entire team trained to follow a fatigue mitigation strategy and individual commitment to time and rest management.

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