A new survey by the European Cockpit Association (ECA) warns of the state of pilot fatigue and the lack of attention paid to it by their companies.
Questioned in mid-July, three out of four European airline pilots (76%) admitted to having succumbed to at least one micronap during the previous four weeks, revealed at the end of August a survey carried out by the firm Baines Simmons for the Cockpit Association Europeans (ECA). All the more worrying as this survey covers a large panel: 6,893 pilots, based in 31 countries.
For untimely sleepers, there is no doubt: fatigue is the result of too intense rhythms. 73% of pilots say they do not have enough rest time. According to legislation, a flight of less than six hours must be followed by eleven hours of rest. A respite which can, however, in the event of high activity, be reduced to six hours.
The computer to replace the driver, a solution?
Passengers can always be reassured by remembering that there are two pilots in the cockpit: a pilot flying is at the controls and a pilot monitoring monitors the flight parameters. The magazine Aero Spatium recalled, in June, that aviation safety remains based “ on the principle of cross-check : each pilot always checks what the other is doing in order to correct possible errors ”.
However, engineers are already hard at work trying to design a computer capable of replacing humans. A heresy for the National Union of Airline Pilots (SNPL), which brings together three quarters of French pilots and campaigns for the maintenance of pairs at the controls.
Two is better… But not always enough. Just ten years ago, a survey of 500 professionals carried out by the ComRes Institute for the British Airline Pilots’ Association also showed that more than half of them (56%) had already asleep. And a third said they discovered when they woke up that their co-pilot… was also dozing.
British companies blacklisted
A bad joke? Nope. A few days before this survey, the Civil Aviation Authority in the United Kingdom revealed that, during a flight on August 13, 2013, two pilots of an Airbus from an English company had nosedived at the same time. They had just had a series of flights and had only had five hours of sleep the night before.
Ten years later, British companies are still among Europe’s worst performers, according to the recent ECA survey. Just like Irish, Maltese and Spanish low-cost companies.
But Europeans are not the only ones who are tired… On August 15, 2022, two Ethiopian Airlines pilots missed the landing of their Boeing 737. When they arrived in Addis Ababa, they were awakened by the autopilot alarm. It was triggered when they flew over but did not descend the landing strip.