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Fatigue self-management strategies and reported fatigue in international pilots

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The use of strategies to manage fatigue associated with work was investigated in a sample of 253 pilots operating Air New Zealand regional and international routes. Overall, 13% of pilots responded that they experienced fatigue from their job as a pilot three times a week or more but no differences in overall fatigue levels were found by age, rank or fleet. The use of napping by pilots prior to an overnight duty was variable and 25% of pilots responded that they napped only a little of the time or not at all before such a duty. Pilots who routinely used daytime napping prior to overnight duties reported significantly lower levels of general fatigue. The use of the cockpit napping procedure was evenly split, with 52.5% of pilots reporting the use of cockpit napping over the previous 12 months. The use of the cockpit napping procedure was associated with lower levels of reported fatigue. Hypnotic medication use in the previous 2 months was reported by 19% of pilots mostly on an occasional basis. Melatonin and alternative medicine were used less frequently than hypnotics. This study highlights fatigue as a major problem for many pilots operating regional and international routes. The strategies used by international aircrew to manage fatigue are variable and provide support for the association between napping and lower reported fatigue.
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Keywords: Aircrew; Fatigue; Mediation; Napping; Pilots

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Auckland Department of Health Psychology New Zealand 2: Medical Unit Air New Zealand New Zealand

Publication date: April 15, 2004

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