What follows below is the final article in a series focused on fatigue. It's my hope that you found the information in these articles useful and a reminder of the importance of adequate rest prior to flying any trip.
MEC Vice Chairman
A Very Bad Day
"My mind clicks on and off. I try letting one eyelid close at a time while I prop the other with my will. But the effect is too much, sleep is winning, my whole body argues dully that nothing, nothing life can attain is quite so desirable as sleep. My mind is losing resolution and control."
—Charles Lindbergh about his 1927 transatlantic flight
How many of you that read this know exactly what Charles Lindbergh was feeling? Our guess is just about everyone who’s flown the line. Fatigue has been blamed in numerous aviation accidents over the years and is a continuing problem facing our crews every time we fly. But how can a pilot recognize when he or she is too tired to fly? What roles do sleep cycles, dehydration, nutrition and illness play in identifying and responding to fatigue? These questions are extremely important yet many people and organizations either don't seem to take the issue seriously enough or place their own agendas ahead of safety. In 1996, the U.S. Air Transport Association (ATA) voiced opposition to an FAA proposal to set new limits on flight and duty time, reserve duties and crew rest. They said there is no scientific evidence to show fatigue is a factor in safety. This kind of thinking is not only irrational, but also dangerous. Thankfully, we now have the scientific evidence and the ability to track and address the fatigue issues that affect our pilots every time we fly. In fact, that is exactly what your FRMC does every day. We use science to flag and track pairings that prevent adequate rest opportunities that lead to fatigue. Unfortunately, and we have no hard data that it would have made a difference, this information was not available when we lost two brothers in Narita.
Kevin Mosley and Anthony Pino were outstanding aviators who had the admiration and respect of all who knew and flew with them. The fatal MD11 crash in Narita, Japan on March 22, 2009, served as a jarring reminder of just how dangerous our job can be. We were given an excellent debrief on the technical causes of the accident, but at the time, little information was available on the role fatigue may have played in the outcome of the landing. It would be just over four years after the crash before the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) released the final accident report. It is hard to argue, based on the fatigue science we now have, that some level of fatigue did not affect the crew. Fatigue is extremely insidious and gives no one a pass. The purpose of this initiative was to remind everyone that fatigue is a constant threat and to provide techniques to mitigate it every way we can. We hope to that end we were successful. Please help us help you by filling out fatigue reports when it is appropriate to do so.
Your Fatigue Risk Management Committee
"The feeling of sleepiness when you are not in bed, and can't get there, is the meanest feeling in the world."
—Edgar Watson Howe