Surveys on Pilot Fatigue

Pilot fatigue is a reality in Europe’s cockpits today.

With EASA’s proposed new rules, this phenomenon will become even more wide spread. Is this what passengers want?

Recent surveys among airline pilots show the extent of the problem: for example surveys in Sweden, Norway and Denmark show that 71%-90% of pilots said they made errors due to fatigue, with 50-54% saying they dozed off in the cockpit without agreeing this with their colleague. Other surveys in Spain, France, the UK, Germany, Iceland, Austria and the Netherlands  confirm that we do have a safety issue in Europe’s cockpits.

A recent UK survey among Aero-medical examiners (AMEs) shows that 75% of AME consider that up to 25% of pilots are too tired to fly safely, and 68% of AMEs think pilots often fall asleep without realising it themselves.

This reality is not captured by official statistics. This is because the statistical tools often are not precise enough to properly identify pilot fatigue. And because the EU Occurrence Reporting Directive does not make fatigue a mandatory reporting event.

More importantly:  fatigue is significantly under-reported by the pilots themselves. This is because pilots do not file reports on an aspect that has become a ‘normal’ part of their daily work. And many are afraid their fatigue reports could have negative consequences for their professional future (i.e. reprisals by management) – a phenomenon that is growing – particularly when pilots refuse to fly because they are too fatigued.

The surveys among airline pilots confirm what the scientific research has already shown: today’s EU fatigue rules are insufficient to protect against the safety risks of fatigue and must be changed. It is time for the EU to take note!

For a complete overview of all EU-surveys on pilot fatigue, consult the 'Barometer on pilot fatigue'