Flying Tired

It is time for the blog to go up, it is time to write the blog, and I am only at the beginning of the post. Unfortunately, I am really tired. I am not complaining, and I am sure many of you have tried to go to work and do your job tired. Going into work very tired is hard, as many of you know.

For some jobs, working tired is a real inconvenience. For others, however, trying to do your job tired could become a lethal situation in short order. These are jobs such as driving trucks, running an operating room, fighting fires or walking a police beat, commercial fishing, and my personal favorite – flying airplanes.

Each time I think of airplanes flown by tired aircrew, the one accident that comes to mind and one I discuss with my students at length happened in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Kalitta International Flight 808 was a cargo flight scheduled from Norfolk, VA to Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay on August 18, 1993.

Because of the length of the flight, the “surprise” assignment to the crew, and the inadequacy of the crew duty and rest requirements, the crew was flying the airplane well beyond the time they should have been in the chocks. Consequently, the pilot-in-command’s judgment and flying abilities were not up to speed. The other two crewmembers were also probably not fit for duty either.

Because of the scheduled departure and arrival times, the three flight crewmembers ended up awake for an extraordinary amount of time before the accident. The flight engineer was up 21 hours, the second officer 19 hours, and the captain was awake for 23.5 hours. They were not at their prime on arrival at NAS Gitmo at approximately 5 p.m.; due to their degraded performance, the crew lost the airplane on the approach to Runway 10 at Leeward Point.

The Douglas DC-8 freighter crashed at four minutes prior to 1700 local time. The impact destroyed the aircraft and all three crew were seriously injured. According to the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the captain reported that he “felt very lethargic or indifferent.” He went on to further state that he could not remember making power changes or performing the base to final turn. Obviously, he had lost his ability to focus on the tasks at hand.

Many drivers have experienced this phenomena as well; nodding off while driving, not being truly aware of their surroundings. It is not the condition to be in while driving; it is certainly not the manner in which a professional captain or member of his flight crew should be operating a 236,000 pound DC-8.

If you are a pilot, think about your crew rest requirements and do not break them. If you are motoring down the road, think about the consequences of driving tired. Don’t do it!

It is not worth the risk.

Me? Right now, the worst thing I may suffer is passing out in the middle of this sentence and going face down in the keyboard of the computer. That could be bad, but not fatal.

Eventually, I would wake up and go to bed.


©2010 J. Clark

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1 Response to Flying Tired

  1. flyinggma says:

    I’ve been there before as a driver but not as a pilot. We have changed our ways. If we are tired we pull off and sleep. It’s just not worth it to press on. Nothing is that important. Great reminder!

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