View Full Version : Tired Pilots

25th Dec 2003, 08:40
If you fly for a carrier working you long duty hours on a relaxed Award or CAO requirements, then have a look at this thread from 'Rumours and News'. http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=112813

29th Dec 2003, 06:53
Was speaking to a nice lady at the Cedar Court private hospital recently about the trial involving Qantas pilots. Apparantly some are wearing a thing like a watch which records "activity", meaning if it isn't moving they're probably asleep. I suggested it should be worn on the non-dominant wrist to avoid false indications...

29th Dec 2003, 09:42
:E I'm not touching that one Spodman...... but do you think they do that while asleep as well .......?

compressor stall
29th Dec 2003, 16:18
These FAID type thingys are all very well and good for employers. FAID calculates the amount of time you are at work versus how much time you need to sleep. Time to relax and be yourself and HAVE A LIFE seems to be ignored.

29th Dec 2003, 20:17
Thanks Compressor Stall. My feelings are that the LCC's and contractors are achieving their productivity at the expense of pilots home lives and free time. My employer can turn a pilot around after 9 hours from sign off to sign on in some circumstances. Assuming an hour for travel to and from work, maybe an hour or two for ironing uniforms, chores, meals, etc.; another hour to unwind, then five hours sleep is technically possible. (That is if your sleep cycle actually allows you to get to sleep right then.) And if the sleep period doesn't include the vital early morning hours from about 3 until 7, the value of the rest is reduced anyway. The company I work for has a policy stating that one must not fly while tired. That covers their asses very nicely if anything goes wrong; however there is no proceedure which allows a pilot to actually be excused from duty even if they are exhausted or can't sleep. Such a request would soon earn you (at the very least) derision and probably more likely some very black marks in the records. I fly often with tired pilots. They admit being so to their crews, but never would to CASA or management. CASA therfore won't ever learn that there is a problem and seem blind to such issues anyway. They don't demand tiredness proceedure from companies even though they grant dispensations against CAO 48 and probably base their ideas of rest cycles on what's possible rather than what it is really like to live under such regimes. Most workers can usually count on going home for at least fourteen hours. Why is aviation so different? Talk of fatigue management programmes are rife, but my company would be totally incompetent to be in charge of one. They don't see any problem now, so allowing them any further chance to manipulate duty hours would be farcical. Aviation is a great way to avoid meeting your children!

Kaptin M
29th Dec 2003, 21:15
The company I work for has a policy stating that one must not fly while tired. That covers their asses very nicely if anything goes wrong; however there is no proceedure which allows a pilot to actually be excused from duty even if they are exhausted or can't sleep. Such a request would soon earn you (at the very least) derision and probably more likely some very black marks in the records. I In fact there is flyingfox, and you are only making your (stupid) SELF subject to all sorts of legal action by KNOWINGLY piloting an aircraft when you are not fully rested prior to duty.

Quite simply SAFETY is the basis upon which you should be making yourself unavailable for further duty, if you are not fully rested.
It's quite possible that you may feel okay to commence your duty, but then realise at an outstation, that you are UNABLE - for the SAFETY of the pax, crew, and aircraft - to continue.
Rest assured (no pun) that IF you do continue, and prang the aircraft, the Insurer and your employer, will hang you out to dry from the nearest post.
There won't be any, "Thank you - we appreciate that you tried to do the right thing by us"...but rather, "Why didn't you TELL us you were tired, and we would have replaced you with another pilot."

Wake up and smell the REALITY of it.
Be the RESPONSIBLE PROFESSIONALS you like to think you are!

Short and Sweet
30th Dec 2003, 07:19
I used to work in crewing in one of our bigger airlines. One evening I called a captain who had been working long days away from base and on this particular day had had an aircraft breakdown and got back to the overnighting airport well after his rostered arrival.

The next day he was due to pax back to his base but I needed him to fly some extra sectors in the morning. I knew he wasn't going to like it but he was my first option without paxing other pilots around the countryside.

I called him up. He said that he was tired, was shifting house interstate in two days time, was stressed and hadn't seen his family in over a week. I could hear it in his voice. I said no problems, I would try and arrange for someone else to do the duty. I used to be a pilot. I knew what it was like to fly tired and stressed and it wasn't fun.

I arranged for someone else to fly the duty which involved paxing that pilot interstate to begin the duty and there was no problems doing that. However I couldn't get onto that pilot before the end of my shift. I left a note for the next crewing officer to advise the replacement pilot of his duty.

I get in to work the next day to find that the other crewing officer had put the first pilot (tired one) back on the duty because "there was no one else to do the duty!?" I almost throttled that crewing officer. I explained to that person what I had arranged the night before would have been OK as the replacement pilot was rated to go into the airports. Oh, the crewing officer said. Plus I said the other pilot was tired and fatigued. That didn't mean anything to that person as they had never been a pilot and didn't understand the safety issues.

The tired pilot shouldn't have accepted the duty when the other crewing officer called him and I wished he had put in a report over the stuff up. But I can understand from his perspective that "you don't want rock the boat and be blacklisted".

Maybe there should be more ex-pilots in crewing and rostering. They at least understand.

Aside: The last I heard other crewing officer is now a flight attendant. Maybe they will now know what fatigue is!!!

30th Dec 2003, 07:34
Jingos KaptainM,
that was a bit rough wasn't it?
I reckon if pilots stood up and said '"no sorry,I can't fly today because blah blah "" every time a rule like that was broken or stretched then there wouldn't be much flying going on.
Who do you fly for? Do they really not mind if you say ""sorry chasps, had a spot of trouble nodding off last night,I'll see you all day after tomorrow""
I think flyingfox probably already is awake to reality, how about you?

30th Dec 2003, 09:51
In reality both Kaptin and Flyingfox's arguments actually occur, and everything inbetween.
I have worked for companies recently who expected you to work your duty as rostered. Their (i think) understanding was that if it was a legal roster you cant get tired.
On the other foot I have also worked for other companies who accepted what you said as a professional pilot. Just like defecting an aircraft, they encouraged pro active safety.
My wife who works in rostering got the best phone call from a pilot. On the Monday he said she had better look at the roster for Friday as he was anticipating fatigue!! True story.

Kaptin M
30th Dec 2003, 10:20
Let me get this straight, cjam, you (and obviously other like-mindeds) knowingly fly when you are fatigued.
Do you realise that you are in violation of the CAR's, and undoubtedly your company's OM?
But more importantly that by so doing, you are displaying a serious lack of common sense, airmanship, and professionalism, and by flying fatigued are setting yourselves up BIG time for making an error - or series of errors - that may well end up costing you your career!
Do they really not mind if you say ""sorry chasps, had a spot of trouble nodding off last night,I'll see you all day after tomorrow"" If, in fact, you do feel that it is UNSAFE to fly, due to fatigue, then it is INCUMBENT upon you to step down from duty - it is your OBLIGATION, as the person responsible for the lives and safety of the pax, and other crew, and the safety of the aircraft.

SmallGlassofPort, had this one happen to moir, just a few days ago:- Received a phone call from crew scheduling on the night of Xmas Eve to tell me that the following day (Christmas) I would be required to position to another port, night stop there, and then on Boxing Day crew a couple of flights for another guy who was going to have a cold!!

30th Dec 2003, 13:42
OK Kaptain M,
like you said,if you feel it is '' unsafe'' to fly due to how tired you are then you shouldn't fly. Agreed.
That wasn't what I said though, I said if you didn't fly everytime one of those rules was broken then not much flying will be done.
You don't just cross a line whereupon you become fatigued, there are lots of different levels of it, everyone is different, it is up to each individual to decide when is enough. I just thought, like I said, that your first post was "a bit rough", I mean, why wade in calling people stupid when prior to that it had been a civil thread, have a good New Year KM, hope you get laid, cjam

30th Dec 2003, 20:13
Thanks Kaptin M! I appreciated being called stupid. Please forward any other helpfull advice from your high perch as soon as you can. If you work for a company like Qantas or the former Ansett, then preaching from the high moral ground would be easy. The purpose of my post is to let the 'lucky ones' of aviation get some idea of what is going on in LCC's and other cut price operations. It is a reality that tiredness is not considered seriously as a suitable reason for failing to report for duty. Like I said, the Ops manual might state the obvious; but the management don't want to hear about it as a real time issue. I guess their idea of 'tired' is my idea of 'comotose'. I want the subject aired. Your comments about being 'stupid' will only help to stop people bothering to post replies. Not all aviation managements or authorities are truly enlightened about safety. Some management consider admitting tiredness as a sign of weakness rather than professionalism. They would soon turn on any pilot who used tiredness as a safety issue reason for not signing on. Once in a 'blue moon' may be ignored; but twice would be considered non commercial behaviour. Get it!? That's what I'm making an issue of in this posting.
I'm in no position to judge your credentials as a "responsible professional". I can however pick rhetoric when I hear it.

compressor stall
31st Dec 2003, 07:52
One of the aspects of the FAID Fatigue Management System was the premis that a pilot shall not accept a flight when fatigued. Nicely exempts ops staff from any responsibility there.

When fatigued, a person is not always aware of fatigue (clouds judgement etc). So here we are with a situation of a tired pilot being asked to make an objective judgement as to whether s/he is fatigued when unable to make an objective decision.

If the pilot through subtle pressure of operations gets it wrong, the company/operations will wipe thier hands clean. Just what the insurance comapnies will have to say about though is a different matter. If the issues were brought up with them, then they might impose stricter duty/flight time limits.

From the 18 months I operated under a FMS system, I personally observed one pilot with 150 hours FLIGHT in the past 28 days (multi IFR charter). The highest I got to was 130, but that was spotting (VFR) and only a smidgin over the old CAO 48 exemption of 120.

From memory:
No need for days off.
Flight time not taken into consideration, just duty.
One can work from 0630-1230 365 days a year and not exceeed the maximum fatigue score.
Can have a 4 hour break between 9 hour shifts (then the next break must be 9 hours).

etc etc.

Kaptin M. We as professional pilots need a system in place that protects the worker. Other industries (Mining for example) have very strict OH&S standards in place to do this. Your putting the pressure on the pilot is akin to a mining company having a pool of uncovered hydrochloric acid in a busy area and saying that it's the employees' fault if they fall in. That sort of thinking is what goes on in the mines of that populous country to the west of you that looses 10000 people a month in mining accidents.

We pilots deserve a system of safety legislation to protect us.


Kaptin M
31st Dec 2003, 08:40
Stupid is as stupid does

It is a reality that tiredness is not considered seriously as a suitable reason for failing to report for duty. It appears that it IS considered seriously enough to start a post on it here, and start bleating that you want someone to help you, but you aren't prepared to help yourself.
My last post stands, but just to re-inforce the point, I'll write it again.

If, in fact, you do feel that it is UNSAFE to fly, due to fatigue, then it is INCUMBENT upon you to step down from duty - it is your OBLIGATION, as the person responsible for the lives and safety of the pax, and other crew, and the safety of the aircraft.

If you are unwilling to accept that responsibility, then the aviation industry is safer without you.
Time to leave, before you kill yourself - or worse other people as well (not to mention destroying a perfectly servicable aeroplane in the process!)
We as professional pilots need a system in place that protects the worker. There are REGULATIONS in place to do that.
I think what you mean cs, is that you need to know that if you do step down from duty on the grounds of fatigue being a Safety factor, and are challenged over the issue, that you won't "get into trouble" for it.
So instead of getting together with the other pilots, and jointly signing a letter advising your employer/scheduler of the patterns that are causing these issues - or better yet, having the [email protected] to do it yourself - you whinge to everyone about it, but do NOTHING.

I feel that some of you need protecting more from YOURSELVES, than from other people.

If the rostering is an issue, then DO something about it.
You might be surprised at what you can achieve when you take some positive steps to remedy the problem, instead of moaning about it, finally see an aircraft damaged (or worse) - and a pilot subsequently become unemployable as a result - and THEN say, "See we knew it was going to happen."
Because that pilot might just be YOU!:ouch:

31st Dec 2003, 10:34
Quote: "Stupid is as stupid does".
Thanks again K M. Who teaches you your stuff? You're either after a personal slanging match or totally convinced of your own absolute wisdom. Your 'line' is that of what we all want. It ain't always what's happening out there. You have no idea of what I have or have not done in regards to this subject of 'tired pilots'.
Get off your soap box; open your mind. I won't respond to you again unless you have something constructive to add.

compressor stall
31st Dec 2003, 14:49
Kaptin M,

Thank-you for putting words into my mouth and jumping to conclusions calling me a whinger. I am honoured to be part of the club.

As a matter of fact, we pilots DID get together and I penned a letter of concern to management, delivered by the Senior Base Pilot. I might even have a copy still somewhere on my Hard Disk. We did solve the problem.

But my story with my old company is irrelevant here.

What I mean is that there needs to be a system in place to protect the worker. It should not be up to the employee to regulate him/herself under the threat of the sack, reduction in work/income etc.

If the workers in the mine are more productive if they walk closer to the pool of acid, would you leave it up to them to regulate themselves as to how close to it they walk? A mine that did as such would be shut down in an instant. I have worked in many mines and can speak from experience.

If it's common policy in other industries, why should we be any different?


31st Dec 2003, 16:45
There's probably a few reasons for lack of alertness/ nodding off/ tiredness whatever and these may include fatigue, boredom, stress or disenchantment.

In my part of the industry the upper echelons espouse the good words of Kaptain M, based upon legislation, consequence to PR/culpability (after the prang) and plain common sense however this philosophy gets diluted and changed as it passes down through the various layers of management. This happens for two general reasons: 1. inability to do any different with limited resources and 2. The "I know better syndrome!"

At the pointy end the major disincentive to making the call is the knowledge that someone else has to wear it or may induce an unacceptable knock-on effect. Such an alternative may be worse than your own situation. It is a tough call of integrity sometimes.

Kaptin M
31st Dec 2003, 16:57
Thanks HFX (as an aside from another thread, yes, the wx had been quite remarkable here the past 4 or 5 days).
Stallie and fox, you guys are professional pilots. You are entrusted with lives and expensive equipment on a daily basis - a position of responsibility that not everyone is capable or willing to accept.
Full marks to Stallie for taking some affirmative action when it became obvious that some of the rostered flying was a Safety issue. And, in his words, "We did solve the problem."
Perhaps you might wish to forward flyingfox that letter, to give him some ideas.

Because of the nature of our work, it is necessarily self-regulatory. As a child, we are taught to go to bed at a certain time in order that we can get a good night's sleep (and not annoy the 5h!t out of Mum and Dad the following day!).
As we get older, we expect to pay the price if we burn the candle at both ends.

However fatigue is not caused only from sleep deprivation - there are many other factors that can contribute eg. repeated early morning starts, lack of quality sleep (perhaps caused by sleeping in unfamiliar/noisy/too hot-cold surroundings), lack of stumuli, working in a reduced oxygen level environment, etc.
There must be a plethora of studies that you can use for reference to support your case.
But for the ground bound Johnny, fatigue isn't usually such a big deal. If he's driving, he can pull off to the side of the road and grab 5 or 10 minutes.
If he's a pen pusher, so what if he nods off.

Aviation has proven that sleeping can be fatal - remember the King Air in Oz a couple of years back, or prior to that the Citation (?) in the States.
KAL007 the B747 shot down over Russia may also have been caused by a crew all nodding off together. (Yes, HFX, I've experienced the same, being the last one awake of a 3-man crew enroute ANC-SEL, having done a back of the clock there the night before - min rest - and back the next "day" (night by our Circadians), and suddenly waking up wondering how long we had ALL dozed off for at the same time.

But if your schedulers won't take notice, then you will need to present your case to the regulatory authority, as a united group.

When I made the quip "Stupid is as stupid does", it translates to something like - if you know about it but do nothing, and continue doing it, then that IS stupid.

31st Dec 2003, 17:05
the distinction needs to be made between being tired and being fatigued.

Day one with an early start after a couple of days off, you are probably tired.

Day 4 after all early starts and a couple of time zone changes you are probably fatigued.

they seem to be the same thing, but in my opinion are two entirely different animals.

being in a pressurised environment at 8000 ft cabin altitude is tiring all by itself. add in a early start and a few other factors and you may very well feel tired. do that for 4 days and that tiredness accumulates and turns into fatigue.

Fatigue monitoring systems, FAID etc are all a theoretical crock of the proverbial and have no place in aviation. commonsense seems to be the thing that we need. should we roster multiple back of the clock sectors with 24hrs in a lay over port in the middle? probably not - switching between day and night sectors willy nilly is not good.

but how do we fix it?

we could take the rostering people on a trip, and make them stay awake on the flight deck, that might just do the trick.

Any suggestions - practical ones - that we could use to fix these problems?

compressor stall
31st Dec 2003, 17:49
Kaptin M

That is where we disagree. I believe that flight time limits should be put in place by the regulatory authority. Specific exemptions should be applied for and granted and case by case basis (as used to happen).

Any system that allows the following: (sorry for the cut and paste, but I am in a hurry...)

After 7 days off (for example returning from annual leave, or a trip away) a tour of duty in excess of 24 hours may be rostered. Not flight limits here - could fly 22 hours single pilot!!!!!
No fatigue score difference between a start at 0501 and 0559 for a duty period of 12 hours
A pilot is rostered on at 0900 and is to have no significant breaks until the conclusion of his roster at 0400. The algorithms of the fatigue system said that this was legal (score of 72). There is no limit to the amount of flight time in this duty period.
A pilot to be rostered for 43 hours flight (single pilot IFR) for the week prior to Annual leave. This also included all duties from refuelling loading/unloading freight

has to be flawed somehow. We were all interviewed by CASA and told them what we thought of the system. They obviously have not taken anything on board as the system is still out there.

Happy new year to all...


31st Dec 2003, 18:04
Scary thing is that I agree with all posts here! Mr Dehavillanddriver I believe sums it up perfectly.
In essence, none of us want to be dangerous when we are at work. We all want to get home alive right? So how do we teach the roster people/CASA.
Just putting them in the flight deck on these trips may not be enough. They are not operating with PNR calcs and other pressures. But I guess you could try.
With CASA I dunno. the safety element of regulations seems to be relaxing to the piont where most of the onus is on the pilot nowadays. Eg FMS and NAS.
As a pilot with an airline that runs you ragged you would generally find it career shortening to speak up alone without the pilot body supporting you. How to talk them into it, or how to talk CASA into understanding. This is the question.
I have always just kinda spoken up. Yes it has both hurt and helped me.
Anyway Happy new year, Hope you all dont have to work like me!!
Blue side up!!

31st Dec 2003, 18:50
Sorry, I inadvertently deleted my note while doing a small edit...fatigue!

In a nutshell, I said that Stall & Fox were being a bit hard on KM.

If this topic is on the board then expect direct and sometimes blunt views.

KM is right. It is up to each individual to make their own assessment of how safe they are to operate, each and every time you go to the airport.

If you feel intimidated, no amount of posting on this thread will solve your problem. You must deal directly with the issue and if you don't you are indeed a fool. If you get nowhere with a reasonable approach to management/rostering then sterner measures are required.

We have all nodded off at least once in a career even if only for a few seconds or minutes and woken to be the only one awake. It happens.

At least long haul operators are more in tune with the problem and a problem it is when a lot of the younger guys these days are pulling home duty with the kids, getting a couple of hours rest and then heading for the airport at 9.00pm.

Chronic fatigue is not about hours, it is about a dysfunctional lifestyle and this now happens just as easily doing short haul.

DH Driver is spot on, You can overcome tiredness but , fatigue overcomes you.

It would make an excellent expose story on Four Corners or 60 Minutes but I doubt whether they would get much cooperation from the airlines and certainly any participants would not have the anonymity they are provided on this forum. Perhaps they could call it 'Flight of the Zombies'.

Have as safe a New Year as possible down in NAS'ville.

1st Jan 2004, 13:49
It seems pretty straight forward if you work for a good employer. Regulations mixed with common sense. It is the pilots call. If you consider yourself fatigued even when within the CAO's then you call it. It is even more critical Single Pilot IFR.

Remember that there is also the responsibilty for you to obtain adequate rest befoer a duty. Leave the bar early! Remember we are all professionals (well supposed to be).

1st Jan 2004, 17:53
I couldnt agree more flying fox,




And to flying fox and others that do come from planet earth you are right it is up to the crew or crews themselves to decide when enough is enough.
Fatigue effects different people in many differrent levels,depending on stress levels,level of general fittness,weather or not you smoke,and of course how much time off you've had and weather you've used this constructively.
I myself work long duty hrs and although getting up around the 12 hr mark Im not at my best I believe I am still capable of getting through the next 2 hr sector to get me home.

To the real world guys cheers and happy flying:ok:

To the others:mad:

5th Jan 2004, 20:09

The guts of the issue is as KM put it - the law requires that you are not tired/fatigued before you fly. In the absence of a better method, the law requires you to make that judgement.

Importantly, the law makes no distinction about how you got tired/fatigued because it is the end state that is the safety concern.

If there was to be a court case (which, in my opinion, would be extremely difficult for all parties) accusing you of flying when fatigued, your name will be on the summons. Your employer may be charged under division 11 of the Criminal Code with aiding & abetting or inciting the commission of an offence, but you would probably have to give yourself up to get there and that may not be enough (although they will still have your admission!).

So, it is your decision and there is no way your employer can tell you that you are wrong in judging your own physical well-being. That is a very powerful weapon that you are holding and one which you absolutely must only use when true. This is an Excalibur, the misuse of which brings suffering to all.

Firing a shot over their heads just to let them know who holds this powerful weapon is not a clever option. Crying "Wolf" disadvantages everyone, because it may lessen the impact of a real issue and reputations are easily gained but difficult to lose.

To be protected industrially against unfair dismissal, you need to be able to defend the accusation that your declaration of unfitness to fly was unreasonable in all of the circumstances. For example, lifestyle choices and social requirements are irrelevant - you will need to show that you made every reasonable attempt to rest fully and adequately for the relevant duty. Any supporting witnesses will need to be very careful that any evidence they offer suggesting that the roster was fatiguing does not incriminate themselves. And don't go to the cricket/shopping/sailing after being too tired to fly!

Well, that is all very depressing but what about a real fatigue problem? If you have had no warning and everything that you did to prepare yourself for a possible day's work was reasonable, then you pull the trigger in the interests of yourself and those who fly with you or live in your potential wreckage path. If you have had some warning of the duty, then you must analyse that duty and actively manage the problem.

Make sure that you clearly separate the industrial issues from the safety issues, since inconvenience is not the same as fatigue.

Importantly, if you try the duty and assess afterwards that there are likely to be practical problems in less than ideal circumstances, put in a report outlining your assessment and concerns. Support from your colleagues is important but try to ensure that it is independent support rather than anything that can be misconstrued as a conspiracy. Perhaps most importantly of all, attempt to minimise the commercial damage caused by a fatigue issue to the greatest practicable extent - not only is that the reasonable thing for an employee to do, but it provides very useful industrial protection against being labelled a "trouble-maker" or "malcontent".

All of which is fine if you are dealing with reasonable people. If you are not in that situation, then you are not in a stable employment situation anyway and you need to escape, preferably with your reputation intact. Every bad employment situation is different, but I think the truth is that you are largely on your own - my only advice is that you do not expose yourself, be very clear and unemotive about your concerns and resist every hormonal rush to exact revenge and inflict damage, because the only guaranteed victim will be yourself.

Stay Alive,

6th Jan 2004, 18:42
Several years ago my company had a contentious all-night, two-pilot, two/three sector tour of duty which was cose to maximum allowed but still 'legal'. The pilot association sought discussions re a relief pilot due fatigue concerns but were told again "It's legal".

During the 3rd (and longest) sector of said tour of duty, one of our captains realised he was too tired to continue safely to destination, and so diverted to nearest suitable and landed.

The next time that tour of duty operated (within a few days), it HAD A RELIEF PILOT ON BOARD!

The cheers for his integrity, balls, and confidence that he was absolutley right echoed the corridors and bars for weeks!

Not all these stories have sad endings, but it is a shame that it took common sense (and all that cost) to get scheduling to recognise common sense!

7th Jan 2004, 05:32
I called in too fatigued to fly (because I was). The crewing officer said okay. I never heard another word about it. We were not real flush with crews at the time either.

Kaptin M
7th Jan 2004, 09:13
A suggestion for those of you who feel that your employer might subject you to recrimination, is that it might be in YOUR best interests to go and see a Doctor and have a thorough medical check eg. blood tests to make sure that your iron level is okay, haemaglobin level within normal range, etc, and get a written report stating that all of these are fine.

If you feel fatigued, explain to the Doc your symptoms, your lifestyle, and your workstyle. If s/he`s not a DAME, explain to him the significance of flying at altitude (ie. reduced O2 levels), and then ask him what he considers could be the reason for your fatigue.

In other words, make sure that you have your @ss covered, before stepping down at short notice.