Your pilot dozes off while flying... a startling number does, says a survey

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaSep 23, 2022 | 13:42

Your pilot dozes off while flying... a startling number does, says a survey

Approximately 66% of the 542 Indian pilots who participated in a recent study on "daytime sleepiness" acknowledged falling asleep in the cockpit without alerting the rest of the crew. They also admitted to having micro episodes of nodding off. 

What was the survey? The survey done by an NGO, Safety Matters Foundation, was to check the level of fatigue causing daytime sleepiness among pilots in India. All pilots across regional, international, and domestic operations took part in the survey. 

They measured their fatigue levels on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (a set of eight questions to gauge sleepiness that is later used to identify the range of sleepiness). And it showed: 

  • 41% suffered from moderate daytime sleepiness. 
  • 54% of them suffer from severe excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • And hence, 66% of pilots said they had experienced micro-sleep or unintentionally fallen asleep in the cockpit. 

Causes: Pilots are generally assigned back-to-back flights in the morning, which results in fatigue among the pilots. Fatigue is one of the factors contributing to this condition (about 74%).

The NGO's founder, Capt Amit Singh, told the Times of India that the survey kept track of the sleep cycle of the pilots.

The majority of the crew responded that they would wake up between 3 am and 3.30 am. This indicates that their body clock is interrupted at the most critical period of rest. 
- Capt Amit Singh

Some also believe that the other reason for this could be the lifestyle that the pilots have. Their lifestyle involves partying, alcohol, and very less sleep. 

Recap -- May 22, 2010: At Mangalore airport, an Air India Express aircraft overshot the runway and fell into a gorge. The incident caused 158 fatalities and was one of the worst flight crashes in Indian history. 

The cause of the accident? The accident was caused in part by residual sleepiness and poor judgement of the pilot. According to the cockpit voice recorder which was found later, the captain dozed off for 1 hour and 40 minutes of the 2 hour-5 minute flight.

Last updated: September 23, 2022 | 13:42
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