CHAPTER I Introduction Pilots today are working in a 24-hour a day industry.
The potential for error when working during the night is higher than working
during the day. Humans have an internal clock that prefers you sleep at night;
so working at night is a valid safety issue. Pilots today should be considered
as shift workers, their schedules can be from early morning one day until the
early morning of the next day and any combination in between.
The fact that they deal with weather and operational delays can extend their
workday by many hours. Many pilots also are flying through different time zones
and can end up starting work as the sun rises and then finishing up just in time
to get to bed when the sun is rising at the destination time zone. This creates
a problem for the body, which resists sleep during the day light hours.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has put regulations on the aviation
operators who schedule pilots in an attempt to allow adequate rest for them.
Over the last 40 years we have learned much through scientific studies, which
have shown that the actual time off required by the regulations, may not allow
the proper sleep needed to prevent fatigue. Fortunately the studies have given
many helpful strategies for pilots to be self-disciplined, which will reduce the
fatigue and increase the quality of sleep obtained.
CHAPTER II Night Flying; Shift work for pilots The typical 9:00 to 5:00
workday does not apply to most pilots. Today most of the activities people are
engaged in are conducted during daylight hours, whether it is business or social
engagements, the reason is, that is how we are designed. The typical person will
sleep during the night hours. As with many transportation modes flying is among
the ones conducted at night. Though most commercial passenger flights are
between 6:00 am and 11:00 PM, the work required to accomplish this is a 24-hour
For example a pilot having a 6:00 am departure will need to wake-up as early
as 3:00 am to make the flight. A pilot who wakes at 3:00 am will have one hour
to shower, have a couple of cups of coffee, pack for the trip, and accomplish
all the other normal activities prior to leaving for work. This would allow one
hour for the drive or commute to work.
The hour needed for the drive to work would obviously vary depending on your
home location, but the majority of pilots work in larger city’s that will have a
heavier traffic level, as in the Los Angeles area where gridlock and
bumper-to-bumper traffic is generally experienced on the 405 Highway at 4:00am.
You would also need to plan for at least a 10-minute time frame to park and walk
to the flight area.
This would put you at work 1 hour before take-off time, which is normally
required of commercial pilots. Although flying commercial passengers still
requires you to awake early it is nothing compared to flying freight, which is
conducted almost entirely at night. For example think about Fed Ex, they have
delivery people picking packages up all day long and eventually transport it to
the airport in the early evenings at which time the flight transports it to the
next city where the drivers load their truck for the days deliveries.