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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs