LONDON – Following the incident aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 343, where the pilots in command fell asleep in-flight, it shows that issues surrounding pilot fatigue are on the rise.
It has been an issue rightly brought up throughout 2022 so far, with the biggest highlight of this coming from Wizz Air, where CEO Jozsef Varadi had to insist that pilots are not being encouraged to fly fatigued.
With the aviation industry always pushing an emphasis on safety, it seems that pilot fatigue is the next big issue that has to be tackled, and that is quite a worrying prospect.
Fatigue Coefficient of Airline Pilots is on the Rise…
A study released by Sec. Organizational Psychology back in May showed that out of the pilots they interviewed, around 67.7% reported mild fatigue and above, which is a high figure.
As a recommendation to this, the authors of the paper said the following:
“In order to reduce or even avoid flight accidents caused by pilots’ fatigue, the management should impose stricter and more scientific limits on flight time and duty periods.”
“At the same time, the fatigue coefficient, an important indicator, should be added to the company’s fatigue risk management system, so as to alleviate pilot fatigue to a certain extent.”
“Since pilots’ preferences for different flights vary to some extent, airlines should take into account their own conditions and preferences as much as possible when scheduling flights within the regulatory requirements.”
“Moreover, they should strengthen the aero-medical examination of pilots on plateau flights and pay attention to humanistic care, such as improving the sleeping environment of pilots during overnight stays at plateau airports and carrying out psychological counseling work appropriately”.
What Does The Study Highlight?
The study highlights that fatigue is something that should be addressed more by the airlines, especially as pilots can’t really do much about the rosters they are given.
In this case, this is where the unions come in, including how effective they are in regard to tackling pilot fatigue-based issues in the skies.
For example, at the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA), 86% of its members trust the union to maintain aviation safety, with 33% of members lodging a fatigue report in the last six months, based on 2019 statistics.
At that time, BALPA said the following:
“No one wants tired pilots on the flight deck, and BALPA is working with regulators and airlines to create an industry-wide culture that understands and prioritizes fatigue.”
“Pilots say it is essential for airlines to ensure the new EASA FTLs are not being used as targets to push pilots to work longer and harder. BALPA is monitoring the effect of the law change and challenging routes, rosters, and schedules that are a threat to flight safety and the health of pilots.”
“BALPA understands the vital importance of accurate data and fatigue monitoring. We continue to encourage members to report fatigue. We are also working with airlines and the CAA to remove any barriers to reporting and make sure the systems to do so are working.”
“We would also like to see an industry standard for what levels of fatigue are permittable. We support the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale as a way of measuring fatigue, which runs from 1 (extremely alert) to 9 (extremely sleepy, fighting sleep). We would like to see no pilot rostered to the point where they will reach Karolinska 8 (sleepy, some effort to keep awake) or 9 during a duty.”
“We are also looking at how modern technology can be harnessed to make reporting as simple as possible and enable accurate data to be collected.”
It remains clear that pilot fatigue will continue to be an issue tackled by the unions, especially with airlines wanting to push their operational capacity to the limit.
Whilst the airlines want to maximize this to ensure better revenues, this cannot be done at the expense of safety. In the case of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 343, this could have resulted in something more fatal.
All eyes will be on the airline industry and how they can tackle the effects of fatigue, as it is something that should be managed as a form of priority.