Science of fatigue

In 1996 – around the same time Canada last updated fatigue rules for pilots – NASA published new research on pilot fatigue, conducted by global experts in fatigue science. Recognizing that the aviation industry requires 24-hour activities to move people and cargo, they developed an extensive set of guidelines for duty and rest scheduling in commercial aviation, based on science and the experience of pilots.

FATIGUE SCIENCE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Losing as little as two hours of sleep will result in acute sleep loss, which will induce fatigue and degrade performance and alertness.
  • The physiological need for sleep created by a deficit (where you body continually receives less sleep than required) can only be reversed by sleep.

THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR BODY CLOCK

Your body clock, also known as circadian rhythm, provides a high level of functioning during day that counteracts the ability and desire to sleep.

  • Therefore, circadian disruption can lead to acute sleep deficits, cumulative sleep loss, decreases in performance and alertness, and various health problems.
  • Your “window of circadian low” is calculated from scientific data on the circadian low of performance, alertness, peak fatigue, and body temperature.
  • For flight duty periods that cross three or fewer time zones, the window of circadian low is estimated to be 0200 to 0600 home-base time.

ADEQUATE REST NEEDED

Additional flight crew afford the opportunity for each flight crew member to reduce the time at the controls and provide for sleep during a flight duty period.

  • However, controlled rest on the flight deck (when a pilot takes a short nap to mitigate fatigue) is not a substitute for the sleep opportunities or facilities required for additional flight crew members.

 

Read excerpts from the research