Pilots want scientific approach to beat fatigue, stress

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By Sanjay Singh

New Delhi, October 12: As fatigue amongst pilots is very common owing to long hours of regular flying and growing air traffic and expanding aircraft fleet further contributing to their stress, they have called for a more scientific approach, as well as a better fatigue reporting system.

The pilots have argued that a change in approach will help in tackling the silent danger of fatigue. While regulations on flight duty time limitations and specific rest periods are in place, a more scientific approach as well as a better fatigue reporting system will help in tackling the silent danger of fatigue, according to airline pilots.

The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), which represents over 900 pilots of narrow-body aircraft at Air India, on September 12 wrote to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s civil aviation regulator, urging it to do away with all the current regulations related to fatigue management for flight crew and formulate new norms. ICPA has said that the fatigue risk management is not an isolated thing and fatigue issues are likely to be more with the expansion of the civil aviation sector.

Flight safety should be the key priority for the regulator as well as the airlines, they said. The pilots feel there should be discussions between pilots, DGCA and airlines, among other stakeholders on having a proper fatigue risk management framework. In signs that fatigue is a worrying factor for the fast-growing Indian aviation space, a recent survey of 542 pilots by NGO Safety Matters Foundation showed that majority of them admitted to falling asleep without planning or consent of the other crew or experienced micro sleep.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) – a global grouping of airlines, including from India — said fatigue has long been identified as a potential safety risk and the industry has developed extensive Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) around managing fatigue risk. Under the fatigue reporting system, a pilot can report to the safety department of the airline concerned and the report is then sent to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Echoing similar views, a senior pilot and an office bearer at ICPA said there is a lot of fatigue among pilots and it is also tiring to do two consecutive nights. The pilot also said the fatigue reporting system is not good and emphasised on the need for having a scientific study by DGCA to address the situation. Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had in August this year said India’s civil aviation sector is poised for a phenomenal and healthy growth in terms of air passengers, aircraft fleet and airports in coming years. By 2027, as many as 40 crore air travellers, both domestic and international, and nearly 1,200 planes are expected in the country.

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