News / USA

Falling Asleep in the Cockpit Sign of Health Risks

The U.S. government agency that regulates civil aviation in the United States, announced new rules this month to combat pilot fatigue. Some fatal crashes have been blamed on mistakes by tired pilots.  Flying while fatigued poses a threat to the pilots themselves - not just their passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, says its new guidelines will make flying safer. The new regulations were issued as a response to the long perceived need to keep pilots from flying when they are exhausted.

“This new rule will afford pilots the opportunity to get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep before a flight,” explained Ray Lahood, U.S. Department of Transportation.

The new guidelines, which will go into effect in two years, call for reducing the number of pilots' on-duty hours and giving them a 10-hour rest period between shifts, so they can get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Experts say these changes should have come earlier. Neurologist Aman Savani says brain images show how a lack of sleep impacts the frontal lobes of the brain which are involved with complex tasks like piloting a plane. “There is something called homeostatic pressure that builds up as we are awake, and that pressure becomes almost overwhelming after a certain amount of time, to the extent that there is evidence that the brain catches up on sleep periodically almost unconsciously," Dr. Savani noted. "And so there are periods of micro sleep that occur after certain amount of sleep deprivation.”

Dr. Savani says dozing off for those few seconds affects judgment and reaction time, and sleep deprivation carries long term health risks. “Specific risks associated with chronic sleep deprivation includes increased risk for certain types of cancers, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes,” he added.

The new rules apply only to pilots of commercial, passenger airlines. The FAA determined that including pilots who fly cargo planes - a large segment of the aviation industry - would add too much to the cost of implementing the changes. But the Independent Pilots Association has filed a lawsuit asking the government to set one level of safety for all pilots.

“We are getting more of our pilots that are just saying I am tired - these flights are just taking a toll on me," said Brian Gaudet, Independent Pilots Association spokesperson. "One of the things that the new rules do is it says you can only fly three consecutive nights overnight and we are currently in situation where pilots fly four - five nights overnight. We would really like to see that that trimmed down,”is its spokesperson.

The negative and sometimes deadly effects of sleep deprivation have been seen in other jobs requiring long hours, including truck drivers, doctors, police officers and air traffic controllers.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid