After the drama of the past several days
it goes without saying that Danish SAS pilots must be tired. But even
pilots not involved in intense negotiations to keep their jobs are often
In fact, up to 93 percent of Danish pilots have felt so tired that they
were unfit for duty, according to a new survey by the European Cockpit
Association (ECA). Unfit for duty, but by that time they were already on
the flight deck.
Some 53 percent of pilots even admitted to dozing off or experiencing
micro-sleeps – brief, involuntary losses of attention – while in the
cockpit, often without the knowledge of the second pilot.
This kind of fatigue comes at a cost. When fatigued pilots can become
increasingly prone to poor judgement and decision-making, longer
reaction times and decreased visual perception.
“Failure to follow procedures in safety checklists, miscommunications
or missing air traffic control instructions are examples of what these
mistakes might be,” the ECA stated in a release. “Seemingly benign
mistakes can have significant consequences on the safety of flight
When asked to estimate how much fatigue affected their in-flight
performance, 80-90 percent of the Danish pilots acknowledged they’ve
made mistakes due to extreme tiredness, and 43 percent admitted they’ve
been involved in near-accidents for the same reason.
Data about fatigue-related incidents has previously been hard to come
by. According to the ECA, this is because pilots generally keep quiet
“Pilots very often do not report these occurrences, partly due to the
fatigue itself, partly due to a fear of repercussions from their
employers,” the ECA stated.
So why exactly are Denmark’s pilots so sleepy? Most blamed insufficient
rest periods between shifts and their long working hours as the causes
of their exhaustion.
The publication of the ECA fatigue survey comes as the European
Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is proposing new regulations for flight
and duty time.
“We hope that the data compiled will serve as useful input for the related decision-making process,” the ECA reported.