The problem of lack of sleep for pilots and night flying

For example, it can impair memory, judgment, concentration, vision, and coordination.

The problem of lack of sleep for pilots and night flying

Much of the joy and wonder of flying disappears when the sun goes down. Even those who claim to enjoy aviating after dark acknowledge that there's usually not much to see, and the safety margin is significantly reduced.

It's more than coincidental that many pilots begin their professional careers flying in the dark. If you fly for a package service or on some commuter operations, night flight may be required to graduate from apprentice copilot to journeyman captain.

It's the least choice of assignments. For general aviation pilots, the news isn't all bad. If you use your airplane for business, flying at night can double its utility.

The weather is often better without the lifting forces of the sun complicating things. Accordingly, the air may be smoother, the temperature may be more agreeable, and winds sometimes die off when the sun hides behind the Earth.

Traffic is usually lighter, radio chatter is reduced, there's no glare to contend with, and the instrument scan may be simpler.

The problem of lack of sleep for pilots and night flying

Visibility often improves because the haze of day settles out, and the lights of cities and airports sometimes stand out, so you can spot them easier. Whatever your motivation, here are a few ideas that might make your night flying more enjoyable.

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Pilots too often tend to skip some parts of the preflight when they may have to wrestle with a flashlight, a fuel cup and a ladder. For that reason, you might consider performing the preflight in the daytime.

Make certain the airplane is ready for the trip when you can perform the checks in daylight. This makes the job more of a standard procedure rather than an uncomfortable and inconvenient chore. Many pilots carry a variety of flashlights, preferably those that have a beam adjustable between wide angle and spot.

The LED variety is great. I always carry at least three standard flashlights plus two camp lights on any night flight. I can strap a camp light on my forehead under my headset, and it will light up anything I choose to look at. If the instrument lights fail, a wide-beam camp light can save your life.

Fighting Fatigue - AOPA

Another popular hedge is one of the new high-intensity LED landing lights. Unlike the old-style tungsten lights, these will probably outlive your airplane with an estimated 5,hour service life.

They're ridiculously bright as well, often on the order of 40, candela, what used to be called candlepower. Some LoPresti BoomBeams www.During normal sleep, you cycle through REM and four stages of non-REM (NREM) sleep numerous times a night.

Stage 1 of NREM sleep is the lightest, while stage 4 . Colds, allergies, and other common illnesses can cause problems for pilots.

From sinus pressure to general malaise, pilots can easily become more of a risk to the flight than an asset. Before flying, pilots should think about recent . As with pilots, the FAA has recently revised its rules for air traffic controllers—raising minimum time off between shifts, limiting the ability to swap shifts, controlling overnight shift schedules—in an effort to address the problem of sleep deprivation and fatigue.

The pilot needed about 10 more hours of rest to be considered fully rested, and his lack of sleep was a direct result of working at his civilian job during the day and flying training missions at night, according to the report.

That lack of sleep resulted in the pilot having the same level of impairment as someone with a blood alcohol level of, the report says. Ever-changing shift schedules, long hours, and short rest periods put pilots and other airline professionals at high risk for sleep deprivation, sleep disorders, and the health risks associated with chronic sleep problems, including .

According to the National Sleep Foundation, pilots suffer more sleep deprivation than most of the other professions surveyed.

This has not gone unnoticed by the Federal Aviation Association (FAA), which released new regulations in December prohibiting pilots from receiving fewer than 10 hours off between shifts.

Pilot Trouble: Did Lack of Sleep Play a Role? « Sleep Well