Aviation Fatigue Term Paper

Pages: 15 (5257 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

Aviation Fatigue

Fatigue is a complex phenomenon that has been ascribed to various causes. The underlying reasons for fatigue are investigated in this paper and the focus of the research is on solutions to the problem as well as on the importance of understanding the causative factors. Fatigue has also been singled out by the aviation industry and the Air Force as one of the most pervasive reasons for in-flight errors and loss of concentration in operational conditions. The seriousness of the issue of fatigue and fatigue related problems are indicated by the numerous studies, reports and seminars that have been conducted over the past decade. In this investigation into the solutions to the problem of fatigue, the study also finds that the solutions are extremely dependent on the full understanding of fatigue and the way that this phenomenon relates to other factors. Solutions to the problem of fatigue, such as the management of sleep and duty times during operational conditions, are also dependent on a holistic view of the phenomenon and the variables that affect fatigue.

1, Introduction

Fatigue is a factor that is being increasingly seen as a threat and a problem in the aviation industry and the Air Force. In financial terms it has been estimated that problems caused by fatigue costs American industry more than $18 billion a year in terms of lost productivity." (Military Aviation Fatigue Countermeasures workshop)

Numerous studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between fatigue and aviation accidents. "...there is mounting evidence that pilot/aircrew fatigue is a causative factor in many civilian and military aviation mishaps." (ibid) There is also a long history of accidents that have been positively linked to fatigue in aviation; for example, fatigue has been cited as causative factor in the 1196 Korean disaster where 228 people were killed on Korean Air Flight 801 in 2002. Furthermore, fatigue has been identified as a contributing cause in 9.6% of all Air Force Class a mishaps over the past 30 years, and aircrew fatigue has been associated with approximately four percent of all Army Class a-C accidents during the period from 1990-2000.

These statistics and other supporting data are indicative of the seriousness in which fatigue as a causative factor in aviation errors is being taken by modern researchers. This has resulted in an increasing emphasis on research into the causes of fatigue and the preventative measures that can be taken to combat fatigue - related errors in aviation. This is particularly important when it comes to military operations with an increasing emphasis on the importance of research into the prevention of combat fatigue during these operations. Donald Rumpsfeld, the present Defense Secretary of the United States, has emphasized this fact by promoting a policy to reduce air mishaps by 50% within the next two years. (ibid)

Fatigue as a factor in aviation accidents is also being recognized throughout the world as an important factor in aviation safety, as the following report attests:

Airline pilots have called for an urgent investigation after it was revealed those crews who fall asleep in the cockpit are to blame for up to one in 12 plane crashes.

The British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) is demanding more research into flight-deck fatigue and an overturning of new European legislation that allows airlines to make pilots fly longer with shorter breaks.

A www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5008711166"("One in Twelve Plane," 2005, p. 26)

The phenomenon of fatigue has a number of central characteristics that have been emphasized by researchers and psychologists. "

Fatigue is characterized by (1) a decreased capacity for work, known as work decrement; (2) modifications in the physiological state of the individual; and (3) a feeling of weariness. " (Bartley, Chute & Ivy, 1947, p. 6)

Fatigue also results from prolonged working hours and has a measurable effect and change on the body and other aspect of the physiology.

Feelings of weariness are "the subjective sign of deep-seated bodily changes and decreased capacity for work which characterize fatigue. The feeling of fatigue may be accompanied by irritability, anxiety, excessive worry, disturbed emotional states of all kinds..." (Bartley, Chute & Ivy, 1947, p. 6)

This paper will provide an overview of the problem and discuss the meaning and importance of fatigue as it relates to aviation accidents and mishaps. The definition and understanding of fatigue as both a physiological and psychological issue will be discussed. The paper will also provide an intensive discussion of research tests and experiments that have been conducted in these areas, in order to provide a comprehensive view of the latest strategies for alleviating fatigue related problems.

2. Method

The central method used in this paper was to research and compile results of views and findings on the subject from a variety of database and data sources. Sources and studies on fatigue, focusing on the impact of fatigue on aviation and aviation accidents is the Air Force, were firstly researched. These sources included Internet databases as well as offline and online academic journals, magazines and books that offered insight into the issue of fatigue within the parameters mentioned.

While it was found that there was a plethora of data relating to the effects of fatigue in general, the issue of fatigue as it relates specifically to aviation was not as prolific. However, it was noticed during the research process that there were considerably more reports and studies on the subject during the past decade.

These data sources were then analyzed and used as a basis for which to draw up an overview, firstly of the causes and reasons for fatigue and secondly to discuss the various views and facts relating to way in which the issue of fatigue was linked to operational situations. The focus here was on the prevention of fatigue in the Air Force, particularly under combat situations. An attempt was also made in the study to maintain a balance between positive and negative studies of the implications of fatigue.

3. Results

The result obtained from an investigation and analysis of these various sources seem to overwhelmingly indicate that there is a significant problem that has to be addressed with regard to acute fatigue. Tests and research show that while fatigue is not always a factor influencing judgment errors, yet it has been conclusively shown, as the following section will attest to, that fatigue is a major factor in aviation errors.

The research also suggests that the problem is been taken very seriously by the Air Force and the aviation industry, with numerous papers, studies and seminars on the subject. Studies also suggest various methods of dealing with the problem, as will be outlined in the following section. The results of these investigations also point to the fact that fatigue is a complex issue that cannot be understood or dealt with in isolation from other concomitant factors, such as stress. Solutions to the problem of fatigue are therefore also dependent on a full and wide ranging assessment of the problem.

4. Discussion comprehensive and in-depth understand of fatigue requires that various related and concomitant factors need to be taken into account in order to fully comprehend the phenomenon. This has been realized especially by researchers concerned with improving the accident rate in the Air Force as a result of fatigue. The importance of adequate levels of performance during combat and in war situations is a central concern for the military, and researchers have realized that there is a complex interrelationship between fatigue and aspects such as stress and sleep deprivation that have to be taken into account.

Other factors such as the environment and the physiological effects of altitude, as well as other variables, have also to be included in an assessment and understanding of the nature of fatigue.

Reviews of the literature (Heslegrave & Angus, 1985; Hockey, 1986; Holding, 1983; Johnson & Naitoh, 1974; Naitoh, 1981) show that this relation is complex, involving characteristics of the individual (e.g., restedness, skill level, motivation), task variables (e.g., type, duration, repetitiveness), and the environment (e.g., temperature, altitude, noise). (Neri & Shappell, 1994, p. 141)

There have been numerous attempts and studies both in the field and in simulated experiments to determine the degree of performance degradation due to fatigue and sleep deprivation. The results from these studies have often produced mixed and sometimes ambiguous results. For example a study by Fraser (1952) showed significant vigilance degradation in aircrew after long flights; and Haslam (1981) also detected vigilance degradation with sleep loss. Storm (1980) (Neri & Shappell, 1994, p. 142)

In another study it was demonstrated that "...performance in a simulator was significantly degraded for transport crews given only onboard rest after flying 8- to 9-hr missions. (Neri & Shappell, 1994, p. 142)

However there are also other reports that indicate that fatigue as a result of sleep deprivation is not always a certain or critical factor and that there are various factors that are interrelated and can effect the assessments of fatigue of aviation issues.

Nonetheless, the magnitude of performance degradation… [END OF PREVIEW]

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