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From the Fatigue Risk Management Committee - 7/28/16
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From the Fatigue Risk Management Committee - 7/28/16

 

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Badge of Ignorance?

How many times have we proudly proclaimed that we will just "power through" our fatigue, as if it were a badge of honor? This attitude is inherent for many of us whose previous experience was “mission based” and who have continuously succeeded in part to having a “goal oriented” personality.

To actually believe we can power through fatigue is pure ignorance reinforced by each successive leg we have previously accomplished without incident. Unfortunately, other than perhaps the quality of our landings, the potential consequences of excessive fatigue are not readily apparent. It is not until we encounter a situation requiring rapid recognition and reaction that high fatigue levels significantly affect our chances of survival.

Tests have shown that as our fatigue level increases, our subjective assessment of our fatigue begins to level off or saturate while objective measurements show our continued declining performance over the same period. Test subjects continued to report feeling no significant change in their fatigue levels even as their error rates continued to increase with their sleep deficit. For most of us, circadian-induced fatigue is an unavoidable part of our profession. In other words, operating at some level of performance deficit is the norm. As a result of this circadian-induced fatigue, the gap between our normal operating level and our subjective fatigue saturation level is narrower than that of a typical day flyer. With this reduced gap, we may reach and pass through our saturation level without the large performance decline readily apparent to a day flyer. If we are to avoid operating while excessively fatigued, we must become better at self-assessment.

Borrowing from the NTSB’s fatigue investigation training, our objective fatigue assessment should include in no particular order:

1. Hours of sleep in the last 24
2. Accumulated sleep debt
3. Consecutive hours awake
4. Time of day

Some additional factors to consider:
 
5. WOCL incursion?(typically 0300-0500 normal sleep cycle and 0600-0800 for day sleepers)
6. Previous experience
7. State of mind (issues at home, etc.)
8. Medication that may be affecting you
9. Operating environment (high density airspace, CFIT risk etc.)

No one would feel a sense of pride in successfully making a drive home after a night of drinking, nor should we in our profession in anyone attempting  to "power through" excessive fatigue. Do not earn a badge of ignorance. Proper rest is still the only solution for fatigue.

Fly safe.

Don Daley
Captain B757

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