Prevalence of fatigue among commercial pilots
Background Short-haul pilots have largely been neglected in studies of fatigue, sleep loss and circadian disruption created by flight operations, but anecdotal evidence from pilots suggests that with the increasing amount of low-cost air travel, commercial pilots working short-haul operations may be becoming seriously fatigued. Aims This study attempted to ascertain how much subjective fatigue short-haul pilots reported, and makes comparisons between low-cost and scheduled airline pilots. Methods Pilots completed anonymous questionnaires (encompassing aviation factors, flight experience and a fatigue scale) posted on the Professional Pilots' Rumours Network website. Results Data were collected from 162 short-haul pilots and statistical adjustment for operational factors was made. Seventy-five percent reported severe fatigue and 81% reported the fatigue to be worse than 2 years ago. Eighty percent considered their thought processes were reduced while flying. Severe fatigue was reported more frequently by low-cost airline pilots than scheduled airline pilots (P = 0.05) and fatigue ratings were higher in this group (P = 0.03). Pilots who reported regularly flying into their 'discretion' hours had lower physical and psychological health, and overall fatigue scores, and poorer self-rated general health. Flying into discretion time occurred no more frequently in low-cost airline pilots than scheduled airline pilots. Conclusions Identifiable fatigue problems are reported by short-haul pilots, but this cannot be attributed solely to the work schedules of low-cost airlines as regular use of discretion time appears to be associated with fatigue regardless of airline.
Industrial and Organisational Psychology