View Full Version : Pilots suspended for being too knackered to fly!

Hot Wings
12th Nov 2003, 17:11
No chance of that happening is there?

When will the media catch on to the fact that the biggest risk to air safety is the fatigue level of flight crew.

How many of us have struggled to drive home from a long night flight? Yet we were considered "safe" to land a plane with 400 pax!

It is a travesty to let pilots be hung, drawn and quatered for a couple of glasses of wine in Scandanavia, whilst airline management are happy to abuse FTLs.

12th Nov 2003, 17:37
Two separate issues here wings and imho its wrong to link them. Professional flight crew know the rules and it is grossly unprofessional of anyone to turn up for a duty the worse for (alcohol) wear. Inexcusable.

Separate issue of rostering and crew fatigue. Yes it is happening throughout the industry and it will continue to get worse and worse until either airlines adopt a more sensible (but less accountant friendly) approach to rostering or we have a fatigue induced accident with lots of spectacular TV footage. I know which one I would bet on...regrettably.

Most authorities turn a blind eye or in the case of JAROPS, airlines become almost self policing. Time for some strong leadership but none is forthcoming on my radar horizon.

Hot Wings
12th Nov 2003, 17:50
COWPAT - do you not understand that having a trace of alcohol in your blood, in a zero tolerance regime, is very different to being "worse for wear"? To be completely sure of passing a blood test, you would need to go without a drink for a week.

My point is that many of us feel much, much worse through fatigue than we ever do after 1 or 2 glasses of wine. I completely agree with the rest of your post.

12th Nov 2003, 18:00
To be completely sure of passing a blood test, you would need to go without a drink for a week.

Hotwings, if you can back up that statement with some good scientific data, I will change my mind. For now, I consider it total bullsh!t.

As for some of the current rostering practices verging on the criminal; I agree wholeheartedly.
Short of the acident-scenario described by COWPAT, I fail to see how we can change this. Money rules.
For all our expertise and experience, we seem to be a very powerless faction in civil aviation.

12th Nov 2003, 18:00
The rules may be unfair but if you break them you take the consequences. Unfair, Unjust and stupid? In a zero tolerance country..probably, but the crew knew the rules. I thought in this case their own agent was sufficiently concerned to call the police which I thought was a bit offside.

I would like to think that I would have "invited" the crew to report sick in similar circumstances.

Lots of sympathy for the crew concerned, but if you knowingly break the rules..!

Hot Wings
12th Nov 2003, 18:11
Jetlegs - shame that you had to use immature language in your reply.

If you have followed any of the previous threads regarding blood alcohol levels, you would know that it is almost impossible to have a zero level of alcohol in your blood.

12th Nov 2003, 18:27
Airlines and their management will squeeze every penny they can from their workforce as long as it is within the law. Forget the sprit of it. They only think about making money for the shareholders and themselves.
Answer? Write to your MP. Lobby fellow pilots. Can you imagine the publicity created from 10000 pilots writing to their MPs'.
Night flights bring on tiredness with creates long term fatigue and it must be stopped.
The situation will get worse however with in flagging, again a point to write to your MPs.
We alone are the master of our future profession. Get together as one entity and we can have a voice. A brick wall awaits those that shout at airline management!!

Big Tudor
12th Nov 2003, 18:49

Lobbying MP's or appealing to the public will get you nowhere unless you can prove that rostering practices are resulting in fatigue. Airlines will point to CAP371, or whichever national document applies, and say "We always roster inside the limits of the law!"
Also, in appealing to the general public, you will be up against a fundamental belief that pilots "have an easy life and get paid loads." Until this perception is changed then I'm afraid any campaign will fall on deaf ears when the average wage is around the 20k mark in the UK with normal working hours on the increase.

Civil Servant
12th Nov 2003, 18:58
Hot Wings,

The trouble is you know when you're knackered. You don't feel the effects of a couple of glasses of wine but your reactions may be impaired.

I recall an experiment the RAF did some years ago. They put a Jag pilot into a simulator and threw the odd system failure/emergency at him. He coped well and landed the aircraft.

They then gave the same pilot a half or so of beer and flew exactly the same profile half an hour or so later. Result, crash and burn due to slow reflexes and muddled decision making. Alcahol and flying/driving definately don't mix.

The issue of fatigue is a separate one and not connected. Until the bean counters have less influence over flight safety issues such as being able to hire sufficient staff to be able to fly a full schedule without fatigue, the situation will not get better. The fact that some crew members choose to live well away from their base is also a factor in fatigue but, again, is a separate issue.

I really hope it will be resolved before the inevitable, but as the history of the industry has too sadly shown, the chances of this happening are very slim.

12th Nov 2003, 19:25
I don't know if any of you have read the Oct/Nov issue of The Log. I refer to the article on pages 21 and 22. It talks about the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 which was passed in July. With respect to us, it specifies an enforcable limit if 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood: about a quarter of the limit allowed for drivers in the UK. As pilots we are intelligent enough as individuals to understand that pretty much precludes any but the most modest drinking down route, ie 1 small glass of wine with an evening meal at most.

I don't know what the Norwegian limit is, or what the crew in questions' levels were, so don't want to make any assumptions. The inference from the legislation is 'don't do it.'

As for the fatigue thing: that is a huge subject in it's' own right, but when combined with alcohol, an explosive outcome can only be just around the corner, either in flight or on the road on the way home afterwards. I hope not. We as a body must oppose the proposed JAA FTLs which are just asking for trouble.

13th Nov 2003, 18:20
Booze factor .
Thats down to the pilots themselves within the frame work of the the law or ops manual.
If you break it you can expect to be fired.
Flight time limitations are also do to the commander.
If Fatigued Dont do it .Its your licence NOt the companys.
As far as being suspended for being fatigued.
Chat to your friendly solicitor.

13th Nov 2003, 19:34
Oh my God......I agree with blackdog..........NURSE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

13th Nov 2003, 19:40
<<you know when you're knackered>>
One of the problems with any reduction of mental faculty is that it also reduces the ability to self assess. That would include tiredness/fatigue (yeah,yeah I've heard all the stuff about them being different :* ), hypoxia, hypoglycaemia, alcohol and many other drugs.

compressor stall
13th Nov 2003, 20:22
Studies quoted by CASA here in Oz (I will have to find them) have shown that a person awake for over 18 hours has the same impairment as someone who has a BAC of 0.05%

So there is a similarity in fatigue and alcohol, although showing a blatant disregard for the rules is different.

13th Nov 2003, 22:04
The document you refer to.


Other good stuff.


CASA are currently carrying out a 3 year research programme
into pilot fatigue.

"Equating the two rates at which performance declined (percentage decline per hour of wakefulness and percentage decline with change in blood alcohol concentration), we calculated that the performance decrement for each hour of wakefulness between 10 and 26 hours was equivalent to the performance decrement observed with a 0.004% rise in blood alcohol concentration. Therefore, after 17 hours of sustained wakefulness (3:00) cognitive psychomotor performance decreased to a level equivalent to the performance impairment observed at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%. This is the proscribed level of alcohol intoxication in many western industrialized countries. After 24 hours of sustained wakefulness (8:00) cognitive psychomotor performance decreased to a level equivalent to the performance deficit observed at a blood alcohol concentration of roughly 0.10%.

So whilst any airline would rightly dismiss any pilot violating alcohol regulations, would they pay any heed to studies like this?
There are far more tired pilots than drunk pilots out there, right now, as you read this.

So are airlines prepared to take aircrew fatigue seriously? As seriously as they take alcohol consumption?

13th Nov 2003, 23:09
After the crash of the AA flight in Little Rock Arkansas, there has been increased awareness of this in the US.

13th Nov 2003, 23:48
I believe there are now more fatalities on UK roads caused by tired/fatigued drivers than drunk drivers.

Mac the Knife
14th Nov 2003, 01:21
Have to say that I'd rather be flown by someone who'd had two glasses of wine the night before followed by 8 hours of quality sleep than by a fatigued pilot.

Some of your rostering schedules look very punishing to me.

And I do have experience of extreme fatigue, having grown up in the "old" NHS when 80 hour duty stints were common.

14th Nov 2003, 01:58
And for an average person two glasses of wine followed by eight hours of quality sleep won't put you over the 0,2 promille JAR rules. (See the alcochol thread for confirmation and official source).

However, alcohol also disturbs sleep quality so I find that reasoning deeply flawed.

Incidentally, or rather, more to the point, I have twice in the last 18 months stayed home on account of lack of sleep. I'm happy to say my company didn't bat an eyelid!

Floppy Link
14th Nov 2003, 02:49
my company didn't bat an eyelid!

were they asleep too?

14th Nov 2003, 05:00
Think you are fatigued?
SOP IMHO is play it by these rules to keep your job and protect your life!
Make a Herculean effort and stagger into see a doctor, tell him your problem, show him your log book and the duty hours that fatigued you the past months. Show him the new duties you feel unable to face and get a sick note.
Then inform rostering soonest you are sick and that a sick note for so many days has been issued.
They will look through this number of days as a joke and ask when you think you will be fit to fly again and you must reply only that you are seeing the doctor again at ...time on... day and will let them know as soon as the doctor has made a decision on you.
When they demand details of your problem only refer them to the doctor, who will not tell them due patient/doc confidentiality. It helps if you forwarn the doctor he is likely to be interrogated by some hostile kid from rostering. Only tell him this good news after he has issued your sick note.
Doctors get very defensive if their proffesional opinion is likely to be questioned having made a decision and signed your sick note.
You have got to be careful and responsible when going sick due fatigue and log events as they occur and keep copies of all the certificates as rostering often dock your wages as a "No Show" if they failed to cover your flight.

If fatigued outa Doctors consulting hours call in stating you are sick at the earliest opportunity to give rostering a sporting chance to find someone who has not had a beer on his day off.
They hate to use standby crews if they can grab a guy on a day off as they allways want to protect their standby.
SOP for any pilot on a day off in my company was to have some beer before answering any incomeing phone call and even before checking in for a company flight when returning from annual leave. They sometimes needed you to operate it and had seen your name on the passenger list.

When reporting sick, rostering sop is to demand to know the reason why you are sick. Be very careful only tell them you feel very crook but you will advise them as soon as you have seen a doctor.
Then do just that and see the doctor at the very earliest opportunity then bung your sick note into rostering immediately then and only then can you can sleep for 19hours.
If the doctor gives you a certificate so you can sleep and the certificate says 5days off do not sign yourself off fit and go back to work after 24hours for the nice trip rostering rings up and now offers.
If you do it will destroy your case and next time you see the doctor he will be basically anti as he will have had a call from rostering saying you are airborne after 24hours and what the hell were you doing signing the bloke off for 5 days!
If you are fatigued and need to rewind your sleep tape free from jet lag make sure after you have had several sleeps and when feeling better you stay off the streets and outa any clubs or social events and use your certificate as the doctor ordered. Otherwise the company or collegues will quite rightly have your command.
In my experiance doctors initially give 5 days off if they feel a pilot
is fatigued and presently they back the pilot as they know the score about max duty min rest roster abuse.
I heard one doctor comment to another doctor that our rosters were...
"A recipe for Premature mortality."
Makes you think a bit about the job/proffession we have signed up for.

Farty Flaps
14th Nov 2003, 05:26
Nice theory but it takes five days to see your gp as the waiting rooms are full of sick (apparrantly) people.

Also calling in fatigued is a theoretical luxury in most summer charter companies.

just tell em youve got the shits off the crew food, much more plausible.


14th Nov 2003, 21:18
If an airline was suspending an individual for being fatigued !
Which is a SAFETY issue .
The lawyers ,papers ,plus CAA would have a field day.

If an airline is paying a Captain for his safety judgment .Then that applies to both himself ,his crew ,plus passengers freight and the ship itself.

16th Nov 2003, 03:56
As pilots we should report to our GPs if fatigued and tell crewing/rostering the real reason for our time off sick. Only then will the full extent of the problem be fully realised so that something can be done about it. What we need is a level playing field for FTLs which should reflect a realistic approach to avoiding fatigue. If all companies had to comply with more rigorous rules, no one particular operator would be disadvantaged. Ok, so the customer would have to pay a little more for the ticket, but if they knew now how knackered we get then I'm sure they'd be happy to pay to have an alert crew up front.

This is the professional, responsible way. At present, people go sick with flu, back aches etc, and the problem is being hidden.