Research Paper: Chronic Fatigue in the Aviation

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[. . .] Increased concentration and effort might assist the workers for a few minutes, but this does not compensate for fatigue during the entire shift. People need to understand that fatigue is real and can have a detrimental impact especially on safety in aviation. Employees need to balance between rest, work, and play for them to continue performing safety-critical tasks. Fatigue is not a sign of weakness, and it can reduce the flight crew's ability to fly safely John A Caldwell & Caldwell, 2005()

When fatigued a person's attention reduces, which makes the person leave out steps in the performance of their tasks. In aviation, leaving out a single step could have adverse effects on the aircraft. It is vital that the workers maintain their attention to detail and follow all the steps for successful completion of their tasks. The omitted step could be critical to the safety of the aircraft or passengers. Reduced attention makes a person to get preoccupied with single steps or tasks. Too much concentration on a single task reduces the time a person has to work on the other tasks. This can lead to failure to perform all tasks as time is wasted concentrating on a single task. The aviation industry is time critical, and any delays could lead to losses to the company. Workers have to perform their tasks within a given period and if fatigued a worker will no manage to complete their tasks. This means the worker will omit some tasks or they rush to complete them, which could lead to errors. Reduced attention leads to poor performance and the worker is unaware of this, which makes them to continue with their tasks as normal. Poor performance can have negative effects. If the worker is a cargo loader and they load cargo incorrectly, the aircraft is not well balanced, and the pilot is unable to control the aircraft. Fatigued pilots will experience tunnel vision, and they are unlikely to notice the unexpected. Tunnel vision will cause the pilots to operate an aircraft without noticing anything that is out of place. In case a mishap occurs, the pilot is unable to notice and correct it early. The amount of effort required for the worker to concentrate on a single task is enormous. They will use a lot of energy trying to concentrate on one task, and this makes them more tired and stressed out.

Diminishing of memory is another effect of fatigue. This will lead to poor memory for underway and completed tasks. Multi-tasking is vital for safety-critical environments. Recalling the progress made in the different tasks underway will ensure that a person is able to complete all tasks as scheduled. With diminished memory due to fatigue, the worker is unable to recall the tasks they have completed and the ones underway. Repetition of some tasks is likely and underway tasks forgotten. Wastage of time, as the worker does not perform all tasks on time and they require more time to complete all their tasks. Diminishing of memory could lead to a worker forgetting to perform all requisite tasks or omit some steps. If a situation arises and the worker has to interrupt some tasks, they are likely to forget about the interrupted tasks. It is only after asking them about the tasks that they will recall.

Another performance category that fatigue affects is mood, which makes a person be withdrawn. With a withdrawn mood, the person does not communicate effectively, and they reduce their communication. Communication is critical in the aviation industry. Pilots have to communicate with the tower people in order to receive guidance while in the air. Aviation workers should provide feedback and communicate in order to avert any incidents. If an employee does not respond to the others, they hinder the other workers progress, as they cannot advance with their responsibilities without feedback from the others. Reduced communication can affect the other crewmembers. Flight crews' should communicate in order to confirm and operate an aircraft effectively. Reduced communication means the other crewmembers will avoid communicating with the moody worker and this might affect the flight safety. A moody worker is very irritable, and they might snap at any time. Giving such a worker stressful responsibilities will increase their irritation and they might fail to accomplish their task. Some minor problems or difficulties could irritate the worker.

There is reduction in reaction time when a person is fatigued. The person slowly notices problems, and they have less control of equipment. When fatigued a person is unable to react fast to problems, which leads to incidents that could be avoided. The aviation industry is technologically advanced, but with all the advancement, human interaction is required in the operation of the equipment. Fatigued workers have less control over the equipment, and they are less likely to operate the equipment smoothly. This increases the chances of incidents occurring as they operate the equipment.

Hazard and exposure

The most obvious hazard of fatigue is the fatigued worker falls asleep while working. In 2008, Air-traffic controllers radioed flight 1002 for 18 minutes without any response from the pilots. The two pilots had fallen asleep while flying from Honolulu to Hilo. For 18 minutes, the pilots cruised past their destination before they woke up and returned for a safe landing. This was a fortunate scenario since no accident occurred, but if the pilots had touched or pressed any control while asleep, the consequences would be different. Microsleep is another form of falling asleep. This is a brief moment of between two and thirty seconds. Microsleep is the first stage of sleep, and the person's eyes still open. During the microsleep period, a person will lose consciousness, and they will not be aware they have experienced a microsleep. If they continue to perform their simple repetitive tasks, they are likely to fall into deep slumber or make errors of judgment. If the task been performed is of low risk this is not critical, but if they are operating an aircraft or operating sensitive equipment the results are different. For the flight crew, microsleep would have different results. The aircraft travels at 250 knots along the glide path, and it will cover over 400 feet in a second. Having a microsleep for just a second would mean that if anything occurs in the 400 feet been travelled the crew would not react on time.

In aviation, the safety implications of fatigue are reinforced using research findings from other transport industries. Researchers have studied truck drivers using sleep-monitoring equipment. The results indicated that some drivers showed signs of the first stage of sleep when driving along interstate highways. This is very dangerous, and if the same is applied to aviation, which requires longer flight duration during odd hours then it is clear that fatigue is the cause of the many incidents in aviation. According to research, sleep deprivation impairs the brain and produces the same effects similar to alcohol consumption Rosekind et al., 1994.

This could result in tragedy especially in the aviation industry.

Fatigue affects a person's hand eye coordination making it harder for the person to perform simple tasks with their hands. In the aviation industry, pilots rely on their hands and eyes to ensure they perform their duties correctly. If the pilot is fatigued, they will make silly mistakes as their hand eye coordination is affected. This might not have serious consequences, but the pilot touches the wrong instrument mistakenly they would not notice their error till it is too late. Flight crews rely on the control tower to provide them with instructions especially regarding altitude. This ensures that no two planes are at the same altitude approaching each other. A fatigued pilot would change their altitude and not realize the mistake. If the control tower does not correct them early, the plane would collide with another airplane if they were at the same altitude.

Pilots perform monotonous and repetitive tasks once the aircraft takes off. This can increase the risk of fatigue. Operating an aircraft requires concentration and doing this for long periods could lead to mental fatigue. Flight crews have a schedule on how they perform each task once they take off, and since they have performed this many times they might overlook some things since they are not concentrating fully on the tasks they perform. They have formed a routine, and if they omit a step in their routine, they might not realize the omission. This makes them careless not intentionally, but due to performing the repetitive tasks for a long time.

There are environmental conditions that flight crews experience. The conditions are vibrations, heat, and cold. Vibrations come from the turbulence experienced when flying. Turbulence affects the flight crew as they tire quickly, which can impair their performance. Exposure to extreme weather conditions has negative effects on the flight crews. Extreme conditions make the crew tire quicker… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Chronic Fatigue in the Aviation.  (2014, February 21).  Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/chronic-fatigue-aviation/4451983

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"Chronic Fatigue in the Aviation."  Essaytown.com.  February 21, 2014.  Accessed August 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/chronic-fatigue-aviation/4451983.