66% of pilots in India doze off in cockpit without alerting fellow crew: Study

Updated on Sep 26, 2022 04:42 PM IST

According to the study, fatigue is one of the main reasons attributed to aeroplane accidents and the fact that pilots are not coping well with the pressure that comes with their jobs.

The survey was conducted by the non-profit organisation Safety Matters Foundation. (Pic for representational purpose only)
The survey was conducted by the non-profit organisation Safety Matters Foundation. (Pic for representational purpose only)
By | Written by Aniruddha Dhar, New Delhi

A recent study has found that a majority of pilots working in Indian airline firms have been suffering from "daytime sleepiness". Of the 542 Indian pilots surveyed 358, or 66 per cent of the respondents, have admitted to dozing off in the pilot's seat without “planning” — meaning without the consent of the other cockpit crew member. The reason: mostly due to extreme fatigue.

The survey was conducted by the non-profit organisation Safety Matters Foundation and it included “Indian pilots flying with regional, domestic, domestic with destinations within four hours flying”.

“Based on their responses, it was found that about 54 per cent of the pilots suffer from severe excessive daytime sleepiness, while 41 per cent suffer from moderate daytime sleepiness,” the survey found.

Fatigue one of the main reasons behind airplane accidents

According to the study, fatigue is one of the main reasons attributed to aeroplane accidents and the fact that pilots are not coping well with the pressure that comes with their jobs. With companies looking to work with less than adequate workforces, timings have gone up for most pilots.

Back-to-back morning flights

While earlier, pilots had to fly 30 hours a week, now, they have to fly back-to-back once every week. That has resulted in added stress on the workforce resulting in more fatigue. The most common causes of falling asleep in the cockpit were overwork and having to fly back-to-back morning flights, which required getting up as early as 2am, the study also found.

Also Read | DGCA resumes breath analyser tests for crew

'DGCA has not implemented fatigue risk management systems mandatorily '

"Corporate support for implementing and maintaining a safety culture needs to be enhanced. There is a general agreement that adequate manpower and resources are not put into safety. The DGCA has not implemented Fatigue risk management systems (FRMS) mandatorily and as such, no rules have been drafted to manage fatigue under FRMS. The prevailing rules are prescriptive and scientific principle on which DGCA has based the regulations for flight and the duty time remain debatable," said captain Amit Singh, founder of Safety Matters Foundation.

Key takeaways from the survey:

>66 per cent of pilots admitted to dozing off in the cockpit without alerting their fellow crew members.

>54.2 per cent of the pilots suffer from severe excessive daytime sleepiness.

>74 per cent of the pilots attributed a series of morning departures as the leading cause of fatigue.

>31 per cent admit to having a close call while flying which could have led to an incident attributable to fatigue.

There has been a chronic scarcity of competent pilots in India, where airlines require up to 1,500 new pilots annually. However, only 200 to 300 of these new hires have the appropriate training.

According to a statistical review of commercial aeroplane accidents worldwide between 1959 and 2016, 48 per cent of fatal accidents and onboard fatalities occur during the final approach and landing.

According to data from 2011 to 2015, the approach and landing phases of a flight accounted for over 65 per cent of all accidents that were reported, with unstabilised approaches being a contributing factor in 14 per cent of these incidents. Additionally, unstabilised approaches were at blame for 31 per cent of runway excursions.

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