FAA SAFO Tackles Pilot Fatigue for Short-haul Ops

 - September 17, 2009, 11:50 AM

The FAA yesterday issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) that addresses pilot fatigue countermeasures in Part 121 and 135 short-haul operations, though the information is also pertinent to Part 91, 91K fractional and 135 on-demand charter operators. According to the FAA, short-haul pilots commonly identify sleep deprivation and high workload as the main factors contributing to their fatigue, as opposed to sleep deprivation and circadian rhythm disruption cited by long-haul pilots. However, both short- and long-haul flight crews report being fatigued by multiple flight legs, early wake times, consecutive duty days, insufficient recovery sleep periods, time demands and high workloads resulting from high-density air traffic environments. “Fatigue is a hazard that if not properly mitigated or countermeasures enacted, can elevate the risk of these flight operations,” the FAA said. Sleep loss, the agency noted, is one of the primary contributors to crew fatigue. To help mitigate pilot fatigue in short-haul operations, the FAA recommends that operators address current scheduling practices and assigned rest periods; establish effective rest-enhancing prerequisites for layover hotels; encourage the use of crew rest facilities between flights to counter the effects of cumulative fatigue; and educate their pilots and crew on the importance of proper rest.