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Pilots dozing at controls

Old 4th Sep 2001, 02:53
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Post Pilots dozing at controls

JAL pilots dozing at controls as union blasts cockpit policy

Takanori Kobayashi

Monday, September 3, 2001 at 09:30 JST

TOKYO — Next time you're on a long Japan Air Lines flight and you lean back to have a nap, it would be nice to know that the pilot and co-pilot aren't doing the same thing.

But that is what may very well be happening, warn members of the JAL pilots union who are up in arms over the company's policy of using only two cockpit crew on long-haul flights instead of three, as most foreign airlines and All Nippon Airways do.

In late July, members of the JAL Flight Crew Union handed out petitions to passersby around Ginza station in Tokyo to let the public know how dangerous a long flight (over nine hours) is when there are only two cockpit crew, a practice known as flying single formation within the industry. Pilots insist there should be three pilots, known as multiple formation, for a long flight.

Although this issue affects the traveling public as well as pilots, many people are unaware of it. Few travelers know how many crew are in the cockpit or even what they do during a flight.

JAL pilots union vice chairperson Akihito Yajima said, "Many media came to us to report on the matter, but they didn't play it up. JAL is a big advertiser, so I guess they didn't want to cause any trouble."

In reality, in the case of a long flight, JAL pilots need to handle the controls for about 11 hours without resting. This leaves no time for either pilot to take a break. Sometimes, the total amount of working hours reaches almost 15. If there are three pilots, they can take turns resting.

According to a recent study by the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, having only two pilots in the cockpit during long flights is risky. Japanese pilots also took part in the survey and they have some pretty scary stories to tell.

One said he didn't remember what he actually did during a long flight by single formation. Another Japanese pilot admitted he fell asleep during an actual flight. When he awoke after several minutes, he noticed his co-pilot was dozing.

Besides these shocking reports, many other Japanese pilots recounted incidents in which they had lapses in concentration while at the controls due to exhaustion on a long flight in which there were only two cockpit crew.

Says Yajima, "Every month, about 100 JAL pilots fail medical checks because of exhaustion. Usually, when we hire pilots, we take people who are in better health than ordinary people. Handling a long flight between two pilots requires endurance. Considering the global standard, JAL's work standard is at an amazingly low level. Most foreign airline companies and even All Nippon Airways use multiple formations for long flights."

But Yosie Otaka, a spokesperson for JAL, counters: "Our work standard was approved back in 1993 by the transport ministry and there have been no safety problems since."

Nevertheless, in July, JAL did compromise and started to use three crew on some long flights. But Yajima said it was pointless unless the measure was applied to all long flights. In addition, he insisted, "Since JAL has the right to change its operational rules, they can make changes whenever they like. It's necessary to revise the work standard itself, otherwise this problem will not be solved fundamentally."

Explaining why JAL changed its policy from single to multiple formation on some long flights, Otaka answered, "When we change flight patterns of pilots, we take pilots' opinions into consideration based on our operational rules. For instance, we have increased the number of multiple formations and length of stayover at destination. This current pattern change is the result of an examination of various viewpoints within the company, not because we thought single formation for a long flight is risky."

Not satisfied, the union has taken the matter to court but it may be a while before a decision is made. In the meantime, JAL is stating its case on its homepage. "Our safety measures are the best in the world, even higher than global standards. We intend to take whatever measures are necessary in terms of safety which is our No. 1 priority," it says.

Reassuring words. Let's hope the pilot and co-pilot had their eight hours before the next flight.
Source: Japan Today
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 03:35
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Capt. PPRuNe,

Shocking though it may be, I have woken up on two occasions many years ago to find the Capt and F/O asleep. Needless to say I had only slept myself with the permission of the CAPT and on the understanding that I would be the only crewmember (F/E) taking a nap.

Wasn't the I.N.S a fantastic invention!!

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Old 4th Sep 2001, 06:15
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Similarly, exeng, several years ago after a minimum rest in ANC, having flown SIN-SEL (minimum layover), and then SEL-ANC, we were on the ANC-SL return leg with the F/E asleep, and the Captain said to me "If you@re tired and want to sleep, wake me up - I need to take a sleep."
"Okay, I don`t feel too bad at the moment" said I. And the skipper joined the F/E in the Land of Nod.

The sun was high in the sky, we were about 30 minutes from our next reporting position, and the engines droned on.

I awoke with a start!! The Captain and F/E were still dozing, and I realised I also had - ALL 3 of us AT THE SAME TIME!!...I have no idea whether it was 2 minutes or 20.

The Captain had done the right thing, by telling me that he was going to take a sleep (it has been proven far better to get 15 or 20 minutes of proper sleep, than trying to sneek "micro-sleeps", as these only cause you to become even more tired after you wake up), but I had nodded off unknowingly through a combination of back-of-the-clock rostering, minimum rest layovers, and zonal time changes (jet lag/circadian rythm) that don`t allow one to rest completely.

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Old 4th Sep 2001, 06:41
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I had a senior captain wake up one time and tell me to quit reading....
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 07:07
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Hey Huck,

Same situaton has happened to me before, too. War Eagle! AE 1979.

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Old 4th Sep 2001, 07:38
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Noddy is no doubt a frequent visitor to many a flight deck during cruise. The consequences are notmally less life threatening than roaring along a quiet country road but disturbing nonetheless.

The following is an account of an accident that happened at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in 1993.

Further detailed studies following this accident revealed that the crew had been on the back end of a inhumane roster for the previous three days which was further complicated by u/s aircraft and a/c changes.

By the time they got to Guantanomo they were zombies. The most interesting thing is the captain when interviewed said he could see it all unravelling before him but was so zombie-like he was actually powerless to do anything about the situation. He just sat there in a state of semi-euphoria waiting for the impact.

This is the most frightening aspect of excessive tiredness, the complete loss of reflexes and survival instincts.

When airlines continue to push the envelope on rostering and expect everyone to have the constitution of of a NASA astronaut then there are going to be body bags eventually.


Time:16.56 EDT
Type:McDonnell Douglas DC- 8-61
Operator:Kalitta International
Registration: N814CK
C/n: 46127/510
Year built:1969
Total airframe hrs: 43947 hours
Cycles: 18829 cycles
Crew:0 fatalities / 3 on board
Passengers:0 fatalities / 0 on board
Total:0 fatalities / 3 on board
Location:Guantanamo NAS (Cuba)
Phase:Final Approach
Flight:Norfolk NAS, VA - Guantanamo NAS (Flightnumber 808)

Flight 808 took off from Norfolk at 14.13h for a cargo flight to Guantanamo Bay. The flight and
arrival into the Guantanamo terminal area was uneventful. At 16.34, while the flight was
descending from FL320, radio contact was established with the Guantanamo radar controller.
The radar controller instructed flight 808 to maintain VFR 12miles off the Cuban coast and report at East Point. The runway in use was Runway 10. The flightcrew then requested a Runway 28 approach, but changed this back to a Runway 10 approach a couple of minutes later. Clearance was given at 16.46h with wind reported at 200deg./7kts. The runway 10 threshold was located 0,75mile East of Cuban airspace, designated by a strobe light, mounted on a Marine Corps guardtower, located at the corner of the Cuban border and the shoreline. On the day of the accident,the strobe light was not operational (both controller and flightcrew were not aware of this). The aircraft was approaching from the south and was making a right turn for Runway 10 with an increasing angle of bank in order to align with the runway. At 200-300ft agl the wings started to rock towards wings level and the nose pitched up. The right wing appeared to stall, the aircraft rolled to 90deg. angle of bank and the nose pitched down. The aircraft then struck level terrain1400ft west of the approach end of the runway and 200ft north of the extended centreline.
PROBABLE CAUSES: "The impaired judgement, decision-making, and flying abilities of the
captain and flight crew due to the effects of fatigue; the captain's failure to properly assess the conditions for landing and maintaining vigilant situational awareness of the airplane while maneuvering onto final appoach; his failure to prevent the loss of airspeed and avoid a stall while in the steep bank turn; and his failure to execute immediate action to recover from a stall.
Additional factors contributing to the cause were the inadequacy of the flight and duty time
regulations applied to 14 CFR, Part 121, Supplemental Air Carrier, international operations, and the circumstances that resulted in the extended fligh/duty hours and fatigue of the flight crew members. Also contributing were the inadequate crew resource management training and theinadequate training and guidance by American International Airways, Inc., to the flightcrew foroperations at special airports such as Guantanamo Bay; and the Navy's failure to provide asystem that would assure that local tower controller was aware of the inoperative strobe lightso as to provide the flightcrew with such information." (NTSB/AAR-94/04)
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 12:28
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Wouldn't happen in my cockpit!

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Old 4th Sep 2001, 14:27
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A few years ago I was on night shift filling Ag Aircraft with chemicals, working with
some truly insane pilots who flew under power lines at three in the morning. One
morning after a 15 hour shift I left work for home and despite the numerous coffees, I fell asleep at the wheel - I woke up in time to see the ditch I was to hit then got knocked out by the steering wheel, next thing it was a paramedic who woke me and told me I was goingto be ok so I went back to sleep.

So Beware you might get through the flight but will you survive the drive home ?
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 14:43
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I have flown too many night flights where napping was prohibited and the result was three completely knackered crew on final approach concentrating not only on the approach but on keeping their eyes open. Good company chaps I am sure but not practical for a safe operation.

I like the open approach.. Guys I am sha$$ed, I need ten minutes shut eye. The other guy is aware that he has the ship. Ten minutes later,awake, rejuvinated and adding to flight safety as opposed to struggling to keep eyes open and subtracting from safety.

If it is structured I believe napping to be a sound practice.
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 14:46
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Wouldn't happen in your cockpit Capt Snooze? You probably wouldn't even know!
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 16:47
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i'm not totally sure but i believe trains stop, if there isn't pushed a button permanently by the traindriver (or something like this).

So, how about a button in the cockpit which has to be pushed every 10 minutes (either by cpt or fo).
Otherwise: Master caution alert !!!!!!
Wake up, everybody !

on the other side:
if you feel tired on longhaul, why don't you ask the flight attendants "Please look after us every 10 minutes" ? too painful ?

just an idea ......

or via the intercom:
"Dear passengers. We are happy that you choose flying with xxx on our flight from yyy to zzz. If you remark any unusually maneuvers or noises, do not hesitate to come to the cockpit asap!"

[ 04 September 2001: Message edited by: enginefailure ]

[ 04 September 2001: Message edited by: enginefailure ]
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 18:30
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Couldn't agree more, Chatham.

You might be interested to know that if you are fortunate enough to travel on a 777, the airplane monitors the pilots for activity. After a certain interval (depending on phase of flight), if it doesn't see enough activity on the various cockpit switches, it asks for a pilot response. If there is none, it makes a tone and caution lights illuminate. Very shortly thereafter, if there is no response, there is a master warning which I can guarantee you will wake the dead.

Nice, huh?
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 19:39
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Traffic....Nose down, 90 degree bank, hit the ground, DC8, all the pilots lived?
Wow thats cool!
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Old 4th Sep 2001, 21:17
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Engine failure, I'm not sure how it works in other countries, but in the US the locomotives have a system like you describe, if there are no control inputs over a determined period of time ( maybe 5 to 10 minutes ) an alarm sequence will begin, first it is a strobe light of low intensity with no audio, over a period of a few seconds the strobe becomes moree intense and an audio alarm starts softly then gets progressively louder until the engineer silences the alarm. If after a period of time from the beginning of the alarm no action is taken the system causes the train to make an emergency stop ( if you weren't awake by then that'll sure wake you up! )
Unfortunately instead of keeping the crews awake and alert all it seems to accomplish is that it teaches conductors and brakemen to sleep through anything, and the engineers learn this skill as well as how to subconciously silence the alarm without interrupting their sleep as well.

Old 4th Sep 2001, 22:14
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In addition to DtP's post on the 777, I can confirm that later model 767-300s also have a PILOT RESPONSE monitor which, if ignored, will eventually trigger the siren.

Since Casablanca installed their radar (Allah be praised), eliminating the need for VHF PX, I have had a number of EICAS advisories on the sector between Canarias and Lisbon. It often comes up on longer oceanic legs, of course. I hasten to add that it has not had to run the full program on my shift, by the way!

Most UK loco cabs have a loud "buzzer" which sounds every couple of minutes and is cancelled by either a hand or foot switch. Failure to respond results in train power cut-off and application of the brakes. Due to the (generally) higher density of signals on UK tracks than in the USA, Mert's 5-10 mins would result in an unacceptable number of SPADs (Signals Passed at Danger) - ONE is unacceptable!

If the Driver (Engineer) and Fireman both fell asleep on one of our steamers, the fire would go out - I don't recall seeing the system fitted on any of our restored locos, but am open to correction.
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Old 5th Sep 2001, 00:47
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People always assume its only a long haul problem, but bear in mind that certain UK companies operate regular mixed duties culminating in something like an early followed by a night Tel Aviv or night Paphos. The mixed duties only increase the fatigue felt and although there is a bit more interest when there is a landing in the middle, its still a long sector. With 10 hours of flying and a very short turn around in the middle, you find yourself at 6am trying to keep your eyes open on the way home. Night Canary Islands are bad too because you often spend a long time with nothing going on on the radio, just calling a reporting point when you reach the Canaries or Portugal.
Many of our crew admit they have fallen asleep on the drive home. As my car insurance premiums are higher due to my occupation I can only assume there is a high incidence of accidents amongst crew driving home after a long duty.
At least long haul crews do their 10-11 hours of flying and are taken to a hotel bed. And generally they start the duty rested.
When you've had a run of earlies, then you want to go to bed early as you are tired, but then you wake early and are meant to go back to bed to get the sleep in ready for your night report.
Its crap!
I think perhaps companies and the CAA should issue approved guidelines on flight deck naps. And I think more aircraft should have alarms.
Best of all would be if rostering actually had to work our hours for a month to see what works and what doesn't.
I also heard recently that its known that 1 hour in the air is as tiring as 2 hours work on the ground, due to the pressurisation/ environment causing additional fatigue.
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Old 5th Sep 2001, 02:24
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Went to the doctor the other day .
He asked what the problem was and I said that I had this dream that I was flying a 744 over the pond . Well whats wrong with that he asked ? Well when I awoke , I was still only at 40W.
Old one I know but how true ??
Old 5th Sep 2001, 08:12
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If ever there was a thread where all respondents should re-read the red writing at the bottom of the page it's this one.

This is a thread built for some tabloid 'journalist' to come out with some lurid headlines quoting - or misquoting - comments made here.
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Old 5th Sep 2001, 09:14
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Yes, but it also a thread that highlights some of the worse fears of all of us. The rules and limitations are being built and used by people who have no practical idea of the real problems.

I would agree that a perfectly rested pilot / operator can handle the duty times laid down by the current system. However the problem of "creeping fatigue" is one that we all recognise and cope with day in and out. We cope and almost never speak up. Why - don't ask me? - I don't either. I see my peers coping, so I think it is my special problem.

I have been doing this for 32 years now and I know all the tricks and symptoms, I cope. But if I was really honest with myself I would be asking harder questions. As I get older it becomes harder - not only am I less able to handle it, but we are working more and worse patterns in the name of economy. Eventually the graphs will cross.

So where does this go ? My company does not have any recognition for "bad" blocks. They are just duty times by and bye. But some duties are real stuffers on the fatigue graph. I have no problem with working my share, but sometimes the combinations are a real problem. No-one listens, and this significant problem to flight safety goes on and on.

This is a thread that should continue ....

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Old 5th Sep 2001, 14:33
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It worries me. I've caught enough 6am flights to pretend not to notice when the crew look rougher than me -- although the triple espresso at the gate coffee bar can be a bit of a give-away.

So, what does everyone want to do about it? Random fatigue testing in the cockpit, like breathalysers? Tiredness is a safety issue much like alcohol or drug abuse, and if crew are unwilling or unable to refuse to fly if they feel unsafe then some other form of safeguard must happen or we'll have reform by tombstone again. Or should there be some sort of anonymous reporting system aimed at producing stats that can be used to back up a reform campaign? Or will it take some lurid scare story?

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