Flight Crew Alertness and Sleep Relative to Timing of In-Flight Rest Periods in Long-Haul Flights

In-flight breaks are used during augmented long-haul flight operations, allowing pilots a sleep opportunity. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration duty and rest regulations restrict the pilot flying the landing to using the third rest break. It is unclear how effective these restrictions are on pilots ability to obtain sleep. The authors hypothesized there would be no difference in self-reported sleep, alertness, and fatigue between pilots taking the second vs. third rest breaks. Pilots flying augmented operations in two U.S.-based commercial airlines were eligible for the study. Volunteers completed a survey at top-of-descent (TOD), including self-reported in-flight sleep duration, and Samn-Perelli fatigue and Karolinska Sleepiness Scale ratings. The authors compared the second to third rest break using noninferiority analysis. The influence of time of day (home-base time; HBT) was evaluated in 4-h blocks using repeated measures ANOVA. From 787 flights 500 pilots provided complete data. The second rest break was noninferior to the third break for self-reported sleep duration (1.5 0.7 h vs. 1.4 0.7 h), fatigue (2.0 1.0 vs. 2.9 1.3), and sleepiness (2.6 1.4 vs. 3.8 1.8) at TOD for landing pilots. Measures of sleep duration, fatigue, and sleepiness were influenced by HBT circadian time of day. The authors conclude that self-reported in-flight sleep, fatigue, and sleepiness from landing pilots taking the second in-flight rest break are equivalent to or better than pilots taking the third break. The findings support providing pilots with choice in taking the second or third in-flight rest break during augmented operations.


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  • Accession Number: 01769659
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 20 2021 3:55PM