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We need to support sleep deprived pilots and flight attendants

In March, a JetBlue pilot started acting strangely. He began ranting about September 11, made allusions about terrorism and ran through the cabin yelling about Jesus, terrorists, Iran and Iraq.

Captain Osbon was eventually subdued by a passenger and the plane was diverted and landed safely. After being charged with interfering with flight crew instructions he was found not guilty due to insanity.

A psychologist testified that the pilot was having a "brief psychotic disorder" due to sleep deprivation.

ABC News found that large numbers of pilots regularly report for duty each and every day, often after only getting a few hours of poor quality sleep in crowded staff lounges.

Although the airline industry insists pilots are given adequate rest periods between shifts, ongoing jet lag and a confused circadian rhythm mean that it's almost impossible for pilots to get enough high quality, restorative sleep between shifts.

One news outlet (see the source link below) claims that pilots are often held beyond reproach and that they find it hard to reach out for help due to the high regard in which they are held. Flight attendants (who are often sleep deprived, too) are scared to speak out for fear of retribution.

So what can be done to change all this?

  • Flight crews should be placed on similar flight paths within similar time zones so that their circadian rhythms can find some sense of stability.
  • It may be time to consider drug testing flight crews for sleeping pills.
  • Finally, and most importantly, pilots and flight attendants need more support.

It's time to take sleep deprivation seriously, and it's time to offer proactive help to our flight crews.

Lives depend on it.

Source: OpEdNews

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Last updated: September 4, 2012

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

Leave a Comment

  • Bill
    September 27, 2012, 9:05 pm

    Well, I always wondered when I flew if the pilot got a good night sleep. It’s like wondering if your surgeon had a restful night before cutting you open.

    This study is terrifying, to say the least, and I thank you for bringing it to our attention. We should all get involved and bring about some sort of change that will help this situation and help pilots get the sleep they need so we can all be safe in the skies.

  • scarlett
    September 10, 2012, 3:20 am

    Have you read the 2009 flight attendant fatigue study?

  • scarlett
    September 10, 2012, 3:05 am

    Cho performed the study on flt att temporal lobes in 2001.

  • scarlett
    September 10, 2012, 2:52 am

    I am flight attendant and our duty rules.lag behind those of the.pilots. I appreciate your concern for us but instead of drug.testing for.sleeping pills which I assume our reporting help us.find a solution. Sometimes we go.for days.without the.ability to get 8hours behind doors.which is being on demand and.that causes anxiety and watch the clock, not even he ability to unwind and relax. Our temporal lobes. shrink from jetlag with rarely the Amount of time off for our brains or bodies to repair the.damage.
    I only.slept lightly a.few hurs last night, felt very wired almost manic today and tonight. If I do not talke a lunesta, lack of.sleep will continue to shorten my life. Help us find something else rather than taking away the one thing that helps me.recharge a little. Btw I just read that melatonin is .not legal in Canada. Sleep deprivation is used on terrorists along with waterboarding. Torture?