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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fatigue Kills!

Put control in your pilot's hands. 

Fatigue is a never-ending battle. Despite the FAA's mandated rest requirements with FAR117, 18 hours awake with crew rest in a passenger seat, flying the back side of the clock across multiple time zones—I'm not sure it's possible to be rested. But the heartburn I feel is when pilots are told when to rest and who should do the landing based on time in seat. 

What happened to the responsibility of the crew? The pilots on deck should determine among themselves who feels the best for landing and is the most alert. This decision should not be administered by someone sitting in an office.

The reality is, pilots have always been fatigued, and they will continue to be so despite regulation. The challenge today is how to mitigate the fatigue... one of my missions during the course of my PhD. But the reality is, fatigue is here and if it's not managed properly, the results can be devastating.

I recently had an interesting discussion with a pilot about safety. He asked, "How can we justify crew bunks when there are no more accidents today than 20 years ago, and they didn't have bunks?" 

My answer, "The environment is not what it used to be. We live in a world of pension loss, seniority loss during mergers, a housing crisis where we can't sell, so we commute to the new job. Our planes are automated and when something happens, we may not have the skills and proficiency to handle the plane that we did years before. The reality is...

Life and flying were at one time simple. Today they both are complex. This ever increasing complexity in our world is creating challenges we never expected. When rested, we can deal with anything. When fatigue, we are stressed, have memory lapses, and the reality of incidents are increased. All we can hope is that we have procedures in place to mitigate the chances of a major accident.
When you read Flight For Safety, you will see how fatigue can impact a flight as an A330 falls from the sky. A world where training cuts impact the safe outcome of many flights because our pilots are dead tired.

Aviation is the safest form of transportation 
until it's not.

How many incidents unknowingly occur 
until they hit the news? 

If you have not read Flight For Safety yet, it's time. 

And part of the plan to help and industry keep our passengers safe and provide great jobs for future pilots.. Please join me on the journey and remember to leave a comment for Flight For Control and Flight For Safety (the sequel), on Amazon in order for a chance to win a NWA 747-400 model!

Stay proficient. Fly safe. 
Create a jobs we can all be proud of. 
We're all in this together.  

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. Karlene,

    Did the pilot that asked that stupid question work for the FAA or management? Is the same guy that still sends Morse Code to his wife/ex-wife/girlfriend/prostitute or does he send a text? Do you think he looks at the latest weather radar image on his smart phone or does he ask the tower what they see? What a knuckle wagon he must be, I am sorry that you had a conversation with him. Or worse, I am sorry that you were stuck in the tube of death at 42,000 feet for sixteen hours with him.

    You are exactly right, everyone is tired. The only question is who is the most tired? Working the back side of the clock as a way of life doesn’t make me any more proficient at 10PM than I am at 5AM. I am tired at both times, but the FAA says it is ok because I only had a seven hour duty day. To even to start to bump into an issue is a contractual limit at 09:30 AM. Approval is just a phone call away and three hours of extra pay. The FAA doesn’t care until 11AM and they make sure to get me some rest by 2PM.
    But that is why we get paid the big bucks and your pilot friend sleeps in his bed every night. Sorry, I guess I am in one of my moods tonight.

    1. I think this is an issue of their just not taking into account reality. Accumulated fatigue is a challenge and crews pick up and meet midstream. Some are fresh, others aren't, breaks in a seat during meal service is worthless. The list goes on. Some days I feel better, other days I'm so far behind the power curve it's crazy. We need to decide on site who is the best.

      This discussion was actually with rep on a negotiating team that was asked that questions and did not know how to answer... that airline lots their crew bunks. They also asked, "If 12 airlines don't have bunks, why should you?"
      My thoughts... "If 12 people are doing drugs, does that mean we should too?"
      Wish I could have been on that negotiation. One day.

  2. Karlene, this is a fantastic post and a topic that must be brought to the center of the table. When I read Flight For Safety and the character pilots were deemed first rest break in business during meal service, it painted the picture of how destructive the airline industry is headed. Pilots and crew are the front line people and need to have their needs such as rest met. Training cuts, fatigue, are all the recipe needed to decrease morale on the front lines and as a result, can not give their heart and soul to getting the passengers where they need to be and the key phrase : with a smile.

    When company management in any company, not just in aviation, treat employees with cuts, then the front line morale doesn't give and that's why morale is down and it shows.

    Sorry to go off on this tangent, however, cutting the tools people need in order to do their jobs will destroy any chance of making our industry anything but safe..

    Will be in touch!

    1. Jeremy, that's one thing that nobody thinks about...the morale of the employees. Everyone deals with stress differently, and add that to an already stressful world and life, it's just one thing that can push someone over the. The scary thing about stress is that nobody realizes what it does to performance until it's too late. Just like fatigue. We think we're good... but reactions are so slow. Thank you so much for the comment.


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