Would you get in the plane with a pilot who has been awake for 22 hours?

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A new BALPA poll, has revealed that nine out of 10 people are concerned about the proposed changes to flying rules that could lead to an aircraft being flown by a pilot who has been awake for 22 hours.

The changes to pilots’ rest requirements and duty times have been proposed by the EU’s European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and are aimed at regulating pilots hours across the EU.

But under these new rules, pilots could be landing passenger jets after 22 hours awake – including 11 hours flying, plus stand-by-time and travel to the airport.

The new rules could lead to pilots operating long haul flights with two (rather than three) crew members and working up to seven early starts in a row.

In the US, new regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulating pilots’ flight-time/duty-time will come into effect in 2014.

The new FAA rules set a 10 hour minimum rest period prior to the flight duty period – a two hour increase over the previous rules – and also mandates that a pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within the 10 hour rest period.

Is it really safety first?

With both EASA and FAA introducing new regulations in an attempt to reduce fatigue and enhance aviation safety, here at Fatigue Science we believe that until we start measuring pilots actual sleep, we will not see a reduction in fatigue related accidents.

Pat Byrne, our founder and VP says that “regulating hours will still mean that pilots can still get into the cockpit fatigued.  Ensuring that pilots have rest periods does not mean they will sleep – factors such as circadian rhythm and jet-lag all play a significant role in distributing sleep quality.”

Only by measuring pilots actual sleep with scientifically validated fatigue management technology such as our Readiband, will we be able to understand if pilots are turning up to work fatigued.

This is why fatigue is such an insidious hazard. Pilots can be mentally fatigued and be at a greatly increased accident risk, yet not even be aware that they are fatigued.

This why we believe that only until the EASA and FAA implement regulations requiring pilots sleep to be measured will we begin to see a reduction in the number of fatigue related air accidents.

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