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Pilot Fatigue Is Like 'having Too Much To Drink?  
User currently offlineOffshoreAir From United States of America, joined May 2009, 177 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 3566 times:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/05/15...h/index.html?iref=t2test_travelfri

CNN.com has this story running on their front page right now. First, the headline is misleading, but that's not my point in this thread.

In my flight training (especially for my Commercial), we had it pounded into our heads about pilot fatigue and stress. There being acute stress and chronic stress: Acute stress is levels of stress that is experienced by a person in small doses. Like having to shoot an instrument approach down to minimums. Acute stress can be beneficial to humans in some situations - it can cause an individual to preform at even higher level of efficiency, productivity, and even cause their perceptive sense to become even more aware of external stimulus. Chronic stress is acute stress further developed where the person experiences repeated exposure to stressful situations. Like having to shoot 8 instrument approaches down to minimums, in a single day, and having to do it again for the next week. Chronic stress leads to reduced reaction and reflex time, and even in the more intense cases can cause reduced spatial disorientation and complete consciousness (very like being drunk).

So my question: Do you think that reporting for duty after a red-eye, then flying a duty day can render someone into a state that would be described as someone who has drank too much? I understand that everyone's body reacts differently in different levels of fatigue and stress, but I think this is just a typical overstatement from the media, especially CNN who always seems to have negative news about the industry. After the few 8 hour flights that I have been at the controls for, when I get on the ground and turn in for the day, I do feel pretty tired, but nothing even close to "drunk" or even "buzzed".

This isn't an attack on either of the pilots, in fact, I am kind of defending them. I don't think that either pilot was at a level that could be compared to as "drunk".

Thoughts? Comments?


OffshoreAir
24 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineRL757PVD From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 4717 posts, RR: 11
Reply 1, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3535 times:

I'll admit im a better driver after having a couple drinks (not that I drive if I have more than a couple) than if im exhausted/tired...


Experience is what you get when what you thought would work out didn't!
User currently offlineWingnutmn From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 653 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3529 times:

I wouldn't consider it to be like a buzz or drunk. Usually that means I was having fun....I would consider it more like the massive hangover the next day brings! Nothing like working 15 hours, getting 8 hours of rest, and then working another 14-15 hour day, getting 10 or 11 hours rest (you must be compensated that 1 hour) and another 14 hour day! All while flying around thunderstorms, or my personal favorite...chasing a snowstorm across the country starting in MSP, going through DTW, catching it on the east coast, and then finally seeing the sun on day 4 back in MSP.

Just my thoughts though!

Wingnut



Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing! It's a bonus if you can fly the plane again!!
User currently offlineFuturePilot16 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 2035 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3505 times:

I don't agree. Being drunk is fun, fatigue is just fatigue, although you decision making is hindered somewhat, it is not equal to being drunk.


"The brave don't live forever, but the cautious don't live at all."
User currently offlineAzjubilee From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 4027 posts, RR: 27
Reply 4, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3495 times:

I don't think the theory suggests that when fatigued you FEEL like you're drunk. The theory suggests that your reaction times, thought processes and general mental state is as if you had consumed alcohol (decrease). So yes... I buy the theory. There is also a huge difference between tired and fatigued.

[Edited 2009-05-15 07:52:42]

User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14139 posts, RR: 63
Reply 5, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 3493 times:

Having dome ghosters and double ghosters a previous jobs, I limit myself to a maximum of 16 hours (a ghoster = double shift) duty time, even in emergencies, no matter what the boss says. I know that after 16 hours I tend to develop into a zombie and start making mistakes. Since making mistakes in my line of work can lead to people getting injured or killed, I refuse to take this responsibility, no matter what the commercial pressures are. In the end it is purely my responsibility and my licence.
I'll be back at work after I had about ten hours off (including 8 hours undisturbed sleep)

Jan


User currently offlineSkygirl From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 451 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 3476 times:

I think that it's in reference to the fact that your reaction time is slowed down when you are fatigued. Your brain isn't working at full speed because of a lack of sleep, and neither is your body because you've been pushing it farther than you should. Everything just kind of slows down.


...Now they face an even greater danger...Tyrannousaurs in F-14's!!
User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21865 posts, RR: 55
Reply 7, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 3371 times:



Quoting OffshoreAir (Thread starter):
So my question: Do you think that reporting for duty after a red-eye, then flying a duty day can render someone into a state that would be described as someone who has drank too much?

Yes. As mentioned, it's not that you feel like you're drunk, but when looking at your reaction times and thought processes, the degredation is similar.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineFxramper From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 7362 posts, RR: 85
Reply 8, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 3288 times:
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Reaction time might be slowed, but training won't allow for critical error. You can do it in your sleep if properly trained. Monitoring 4-5 panels at once and another 8 systems functions is second nature.

Quoting OffshoreAir (Thread starter):
First, the headline is misleading, but that's not my point in this thread.

Agreed.


User currently offlineB6JFKH81 From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 2902 posts, RR: 7
Reply 9, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 3288 times:

I remember at one point there was talk around here in NY to be able to charge people with Driving While Drowsy just like they do a DWI/DUI. Don't know whatever became of that.

Considering I used to be a part of a Youth Highway Safety Committee for Long Island (many years ago), I can tell you that yes, reaction times for drunk people and fatigued people are similar. The demonstration that I used to give would be to tie a 5lb brick to a kids foot while seated, put a marker where the knee was supposed to come up to (for normal reaction of slamming on the brake one usually will bring the knee up quite a bit) and make the kid act like he had to slam on the brake. The extra weight simulated the lag time on the physical side and always took the students by surprise when I read out the times that I clocked between doing it w/ the weight and doing it w/o the weight.  drunk 

~H81



"If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it"
User currently offlineOffshoreAir From United States of America, joined May 2009, 177 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3224 times:



Quoting Skygirl (Reply 6):
I think that it's in reference to the fact that your reaction time is slowed down when you are fatigued. Your brain isn't working at full speed because of a lack of sleep, and neither is your body because you've been pushing it farther than you should. Everything just kind of slows down.

I agree with you here, its all true - but to say that you feel the same way when you are that fatigued as after a night out where you drank too much is an overstatement in my opinion. When I was in college, and during finals week, I remember 2 or 3 day periods where I wouldn't get any sleep, but even then at my most exhausted time I wouldn't say I felt extremely intoxicated like after a night of collegiate drinking.

Quoting Azjubilee (Reply 4):
I don't think the theory suggests that when fatigued you FEEL like you're drunk. The theory suggests that your reaction times, thought processes and general mental state is as if you had consumed alcohol (decrease). So yes... I buy the theory. There is also a huge difference between tired and fatigued.

I think we can all agree that an article from the news that "suggest" or "references" something so much loses a lot of its credibility.



OffshoreAir
User currently offlineDingDong From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 661 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3197 times:



Quoting OffshoreAir (Reply 10):
When I was in college, and during finals week, I remember 2 or 3 day periods where I wouldn't get any sleep, but even then at my most exhausted time I wouldn't say I felt extremely intoxicated like after a night of collegiate drinking.

Disagree. I once lightly bumped a car, many years ago, while at a red light when driving home after doing a 16 hour work day. I wasn't trying to keep eyes open; they were open because of caffeine, but brain wasn't thinking very well, and failed to process well the fact there was a stopped car ahead of me.

Fortunately, no metal was bent, but that shook me up and never happened again.

THAT is the kind of effect that's similar to the mental processing by drunk people.



DingDong, honey, please answer the doorbell!
User currently offlineDaBuzzard From Canada, joined Sep 2007, 136 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3194 times:



Quoting OffshoreAir (Reply 10):
but even then at my most exhausted time I wouldn't say I felt extremely intoxicated like after a night of collegiate drinking

As pointed out above, you don't feel drunk but your reaction times and judgment suffer the same as if you were drunk. Things that you would normally notice (like airspeed getting too low) you may overlook. When you do notice something out of the ordinary you may be more likely to make the wrong decision.

If you are exhausted, you are impaired.
If you are drunk, you are impaired.


User currently offlineAviateur From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1360 posts, RR: 11
Reply 13, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3182 times:

I just spoke with CNN about that story, and appeared in one of their other segments this afternoon re: regional flying. The "drunk" analogy is a tad alarmist and misleading.

Here's a piece I did about fatigue in general...

The menace of pilot fatigue
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2009/04/17/askthepilot317/



Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2412 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 3008 times:
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Numerous studies have correlated the impairment in driver performance from fatigue with that of drinking. The following is fairly typical:

"The Centre for Sleep Research at Flinders University in South Australia has likened fatigue-induced impairments to those caused by alcohol: a person kept awake for 17 hours will perform at a standard comparable to that of someone with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 per cent (the legal limit in Australia). After 24 hours without sleep, a person will have capabilities similar to someone with a BAC of 0.10 per cent."

http://www.science.org.au/nova/074/074key.htm


User currently offlineGoose From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 1840 posts, RR: 15
Reply 15, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 2987 times:



Quoting OffshoreAir (Thread starter):
Do you think that reporting for duty after a red-eye, then flying a duty day can render someone into a state that would be described as someone who has drank too much?

Yes, in that things become much more complicated if you're operating in a "fog" brought on by lack of sleep or fatigue - and you become sloppy.

If you're doing something in which little thought is required, the job is entirely autonomic and free of complications, you'll do fine; but, a pilot's job is none of those. As others have said - even simple problems, easily dealt with when well-rested, can become frustratingly difficult if you're awake for 16 or 17 hours.... you get prone to taking shortcuts and, if faced with a challenge, your brain sometimes just doesn't seem able to figure out a solution which might other times would probably be quite obvious.

And then, when you can't figure it out, you panic -- also due to a lack of sleep. Which of course doesn't help.



"Talk to me, Goose..."
User currently offlineOffshoreAir From United States of America, joined May 2009, 177 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 2914 times:



Quoting DingDong (Reply 11):

Disagree. I once lightly bumped a car, many years ago, while at a red light when driving home after doing a 16 hour work day. I wasn't trying to keep eyes open; they were open because of caffeine, but brain wasn't thinking very well, and failed to process well the fact there was a stopped car ahead of me.

You disagree about the way I felt after not sleeping for 2 days? I would have to say I remember it pretty well....

Quoting Rwessel (Reply 14):

"The Centre for Sleep Research at Flinders University in South Australia has likened fatigue-induced impairments to those caused by alcohol: a person kept awake for 17 hours will perform at a standard comparable to that of someone with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 per cent (the legal limit in Australia). After 24 hours without sleep, a person will have capabilities similar to someone with a BAC of 0.10 per cent."

Very interesting, but I would not consider a BAC .10 as a state where I have had "too much to drink". Let me clarify, it is absolutely too much to be operating any sort of machinery, for sure, but 2 beers in one hour can put an average man (175lbs) up in the .06-.07 range. Binge drinking is considered having more than 4 drinks in one sitting. "Having too much to drink" implies much more of the state where people are getting sick from drinking, passing out, or have lapsed into the motor functions of an infant, not the way an average guy feels after 3 or 4 beers.

Quoting DaBuzzard (Reply 12):
As pointed out above, you don't feel drunk but your reaction times and judgment suffer the same as if you were drunk. Things that you would normally notice (like airspeed getting too low) you may overlook. When you do notice something out of the ordinary you may be more likely to make the wrong decision.

If you are exhausted, you are impaired.
If you are drunk, you are impaired.

 checkmark   checkmark   checkmark 



OffshoreAir
User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13199 posts, RR: 15
Reply 17, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2885 times:

Having worked in situations from time to time or traveled internationally where I was awake for over 24 hours, I agree that by the later hours of being awake is like being intoxicated or having a hangover. Your mind does become 'foggy', you tend to make more mistakes, concentration wanes, you become more frustrated with your bosses demands or any situation that delays you getting sleep.
The issue of the effects of fatgue on people working extended hours or without sufficient true sleep or overnights is a serious one in jobs like truck drivers, airline workers, machine operators, hosptial workers and doctors to nuke power plant operators. We need to adjust laws to better deal with sleep needs and overnight or extended working situations.
The recent Coglin/CO crash in BUF has raised these issues as to airline operations. There is something wrong when someone has to come from Washington state to fly a plane from EWR to BUF. As one of the linked articles notes, there have been crashes or incidents of aircraft due to mental fatgue due to extended periods of being awake or insufficient sleep. This is further compounded by the current economic situation as well as on airlines of all kinds for years.


User currently offlineSilver1SWA From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 4860 posts, RR: 25
Reply 18, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2878 times:
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Quoting Skygirl (Reply 6):
I think that it's in reference to the fact that your reaction time is slowed down when you are fatigued. Your brain isn't working at full speed because of a lack of sleep, and neither is your body because you've been pushing it farther than you should. Everything just kind of slows down.

 checkmark  I have had some rough drives home following 16+ hour double shifts.



ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2412 posts, RR: 2
Reply 19, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2876 times:
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Quoting OffshoreAir (Reply 16):
"Having too much to drink" implies much more of the state where people are getting sick from drinking, passing out, or have lapsed into the motor functions of an infant, not the way an average guy feels after 3 or 4 beers.

I have to disagree. It depends on the context. "Having too much to drink" also refers to the situation where you're unsafe (or illegal) to drive/fly/whatever. And clearly that's the context in which CNN made the statement.

I've had "too much to drink" for driving on several occasions in the relatively recent past (and then did not drive), but I've not had "too much to drink" in the sense you used it more than a couple of times in the last 15 years, and then only in the first sense of being somewhat sick (or at least have a darn good hangover). I may be boring, but I've never passed out from alcohol consumption or had my motor skills reduced to the level of an infant.


User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 20, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 2817 times:



Quoting Skygirl (Reply 6):
I think that it's in reference to the fact that your reaction time is slowed down when you are fatigued. Your brain isn't working at full speed because of a lack of sleep, and neither is your body because you've been pushing it farther than you should. Everything just kind of slows down.

I agree. That's the point they're trying to prove. No different than the statistic that talking on your cell phone declines your performance behind the wheel as if you've had 2 beers. The MythBusters had an episode about this. Take it for what it's worth.
We are always fighting the co. about building trips that have you flip flopping from day to night duty periods and worse when it's int'l. Most people cannot flip a switch and fall asleep at will therefore lying in bed when it's "time for rest" doesn't mean good rest and you will be/feel brain dead. Been there; done that.


User currently offlineLongHauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 5157 posts, RR: 43
Reply 21, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 2786 times:



Quoting OffshoreAir (Thread starter):
Do you think that reporting for duty after a red-eye, then flying a duty day can render someone into a state that would be described as someone who has drank too much?

That example is the worse case scenario ... reporting for a maximum duty day, after a red-eye. Of course you are fatigued/impaired! And like in the Colgan/BUF case, they were aware they were fatigued.

Sometimes its not so obvious though, sometimes its just a long day, a lot of legs, a lot of problems with no relief. Because you don't think you should be tired, you don't know it. Sometimes that is worse.

In Canada, we have "Controlled Rest on the Flight Deck", where it is permissible to rest on the flight deck under explicit conditions. In my opinion, it is the start of acknowledgment that pilots can actually get tired. Before then it was assumed we are as sharp at the end of a 14 hour day as we are at the beginning.

Unfortunately, fatigue never seems to get a lot of respect. In my opinion, that is because regulators (who are governed by airline corporation interest groups) feel it is just union padding, looking for more pilots to do the same job!

Remember, in the last 50 years, with the advent of more reliable equipment, the percentage of "pilot error" accidents has increased. (Not the actual number, just the percentage). And the biggest cause of pilot error ..... fatigue!



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 22, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 2774 times:



Quoting LongHauler (Reply 21):
Unfortunately, fatigue never seems to get a lot of respect.

Ha! Reminds me of an old joke from a WC Fields movie..."You know the best cure for insomnia?" "No what?" "Get plenty of sleep!" Sometimes I think that the co. must have watched this movie.


User currently offlineLongHauler From Canada, joined Mar 2004, 5157 posts, RR: 43
Reply 23, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 2766 times:



Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 22):
Ha! Reminds me of an old joke from a WC Fields movie..."You know the best cure for insomnia?" "No what?" "Get plenty of sleep!" Sometimes I think that the co. must have watched this movie.

I recall in the early 1990s when Transport Canada was looking into pilot fatigue issues, they were under a lot of pressure from charter airlines NOT to reduce maximum duty days. At the time some charter airlines were doing Trans Atlantic turns .... YMX-CDG-YMX in one duty day!!!

Transport Canada's answer ....."There will be no change in maximum duty times, however from this point in time, it will be illegal to be fatigued!" Problem solved ... right?



Never gonna grow up, never gonna slow down .... Barefoot Blue Jean Night
User currently offlineOffshoreAir From United States of America, joined May 2009, 177 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (5 years 7 months 1 week 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 2712 times:



Quoting Rwessel (Reply 19):
I have to disagree. It depends on the context. "Having too much to drink" also refers to the situation where you're unsafe (or illegal) to drive/fly/whatever. And clearly that's the context in which CNN made the statement.

I get your point. I think we can all agree then that the statement "having too much too drink" is entirely too subjective of a statement.



OffshoreAir
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