In an infamous incident in 2008, 2 airline pilots fell asleep at the controls resulting in the plane overflying the destination. They were found later to have suffered from OSA (see my posting at that time here ). But now it appears that in the US, a more common malady has been found that can cause pilots to be sleepy when on duty…the Crash Pad Syndrome.
It turns out that most US airlines domestic pilots are quite lowly paid (I’m told USD 20,000 a year) that they cannot afford a proper hotel-room for a good night’s sleep before reporting for duty as such rooms are not provided for by their employers for a flight from home-base. ABC News a few days ago revealed that these pilots would either ‘rest’ in crew-rooms which do not have beds and are not designed for a good night’s sleep; or resort to what are called crash-pads.
The crash-pads are extremely popular and are found near busy airports where their existence is kept a secret to the public. At US$25 a night, it offers affordable accommodation especially in expensive cities like New York.
FAA, the body which regulates US pilots, maintains at least an 8-hour mandatory rest period and a working day that should not exceed 16 hours. Sleep is recommended in rooms which are dark, cool in temperature, and where there is no intrusive noise. Whether these crash-pads can fulfill these criteria is doubtful and may create significant pilot fatigue. Fatigue results in a decreased ability to maintain function or workload due to mental or physical stress (like inadequate sleep). This in turn causes inability to concentrate and impaired reaction times, both essential when operating an airplane.
As a passenger, I get the shivers when I see a pilot yawning when reporting for duty..
- Hero pilot criticizes new FAA rules on fatigue (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- India Crash Report Blames Sleepy Pilot (nytimes.com)
- Pilots: New fatigue rules inadequate (cnn.com)