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Fatigue-Related Aviation Mishaps

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INTRODUCTION: Fatigue is a critical safety issue to U.S. Air Force (USAF) flight and ground crew. Nearly 15 yr of mishap reports were analyzed to determine how fatigue affects USAF operations with the goal of improving fatigue risk management policies and tools.

METHODS: Summary data for 19,920 aviation mishap reports dating back to 2003 were collected from the Air Force Safety Automated System (AFSAS). Fatigue-related mishaps were identified based on designations provided within AFSAS. Other metrics examined were characteristics such as timing, cost, and aircraft metrics, among others. Contingency tables built from these metrics were used to assess fatigue-related trends across the aviation community.

RESULTS: While only 3.88% of all mishaps were identified as fatigue-related, they are associated with 2.1 billion of medical expenses and property damage, or 18% of the 11.7 billion total cost of all mishaps included in the study. Nearly a quarter of the fatigue-related mishaps fall into the most severe mishap category and more than half occurred between 0100 and 0700, local time. Fatigue-related mishaps tended to be more common for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and ground operations.

DISCUSSION: Fatigue is very costly to the USAF despite the relatively low incidence rate of fatigue-related mishaps. This is because larger proportions of severe mishaps were found to be fatigue-related. RPA and ground maintenance operators might be especially susceptible to fatigue and potentially lack adequate fatigue mitigation support and training tailored to their unique operational environment, suggesting a need to improve upon fatigue mitigation tools and strategies.

Gaines AR, Morris MB, Gunzelmann G. Fatigue-related aviation mishaps. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2020; 91(5):440447.
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Keywords: aviation; fatigue; mishaps

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2020

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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