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Risk of Fatigue Among Airline Crew During 4 Consecutive Days of Flight Duty

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BACKGROUND: Airline crew are being exposed to extended workdays and compressed work periods, with quick returns between duties, implying a heightened physiological and psychological strain that may lead to sleep deprivation and fatigue. The aim of the study was assessment of the effect of an extended day of flight duty and a compressed work week with regard to recovery, cumulative fatigue, and neurobehavioral performance.

METHODS: We followed 18 pilots and 41 cabin crewmembers during four consecutive days of flight duty, comprising a total of ≥ 39 h, where the first day was ≥ 10 h. Information on demographics, work characteristics, health status, and physical activity was collected at baseline. Subjects completed logs for the first and fourth workday, including the Samn-Perelli Fatigue Checklist at three time points during these workdays. Two computer-based neurobehavioral tests were completed the evening prior to the first shift, and after the first and the fourth day of the work period.

RESULTS: Number of flight sectors during the work period was 10–20. Self-reported fatigue levels increased during the workdays. Neurobehavioral test-scores did not deteriorate. The effects of each additional flight sector during the work period was elevated reaction times (RT) both among cabin crewmembers (B = 5.05 ms, 95% CI 0.6, 9.5) and pilots (B = 4.95 ms, 95% CI 0.4, 9.5). Precision was unaffected.

DISCUSSION: Airline pilots and cabin crewmembers seem to obtain satisfactory sleep before and during the period of 4 consecutive days. The association between multiple flight sectors and increased fatigue supports previous findings.

Goffeng EM, Wagstaff A, Nordby K-C, Meland A, Goffeng LO, Skare Ø, Lilja D, Lie J-AS. Risk of fatigue among airline crew during 4 consecutive days of flight duty. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2019; 90(5):466–474.
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Keywords: airline crew; compressed working hours; fatigue; long working days

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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