Relationship b/w pilot experience and fatigue

Howdy Ya'll,

I was wonderin' how most of you combat fatigue while flying?

I am an AF trained pilot and don't really know much about how the civil side trains. In the AF, pilots do not get much training on combatting fatigue. I've seen some crazy things AF pilots do to try to stay awake, like rubbing Flexall on their cheeks and poking pencils in their legs. Really!!! I've even taken go pills, which really do the trick in waking me up.

Do you think as a pilot gains experience and experiences severe fatigue up close and personal, he or she gets better at combatting fatigue? I just think the AF places to little emphasis on fatigue while training pilots.

Chris Bow
We get a little training, but by virtue of being on duty for up to 16 hours per day, lack of meal breaks and company rules against reading materials non-pertinent to flight, it's difficult to implement anything effectively.

Personally, I tend to drink too much coffee during a trip or even try to coordinate a short nap with the other pilot.

This month has been especially bad because on the last leg of the trip, we have a 3 hour 45 minute leg from JFK to DFW and we've been experiencing 140 knot headwinds enroute. Talk about boring! Once you get west of Manhattan, there's nothing else to look at until the captain's pointing out his house north of the airport on arrival.

I've gone thru "FAA fatigue modules" at various airlines, but in general, it's more like they tell you about the fatigue training seminars that THEY went thru and effectively put the rest of the class to sleep with the I did this, I did that lecture.
we have a 3 hour 45 minute leg from JFK to DFW and we've been experiencing 140 knot headwinds enroute.

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Wow! Would it be better to drop to a lower altitude in that case? Does Delta allow its pilots to deviate from the flight plan for reasons other than saftey of flight? Say you drop down to about FL190 or 220 or so, would it get you there any quicker even though you are going slower?
Don't mean to answer for Doug but the problem with operating at a very low altitude like that (FL190) is the extreme increase in fuel burn. Our Challenger 604 burns in the neighborhood of 6,000 pounds of fuel per hour(total) at max thrust at sea level, at FL410 we burn around 1,800 pounds of fuel per hour, I don't have the charts in front of me but I'm guessing that at FL190 we would burn around 4,000 pounds per hour at max cruise thrust - remember that these numbers are for a relatively new, high bypass, very fuel efficient turbofan engine. I don't know anything about the engines on the MD-88 but since it's a much larger aircraft it's safe assume that the differences in fuel burn are also much greater.

Basically it comes down to this - flying at a low altitude usually increases the fuel burn to the point that it a)becomes financially undesireable or b)becomes impossible due to the fact the airplane can't physically hold enough fuel or you have to start bumping pax so you're not overweight.

As far as the fatigue - the 604 is an 8 hour airplane - my record is 6.5 hours - BOS to SFO with winter headwinds. We have a little more 'flexibility' than the airlines - we usually have some sort of reading material with us. Regarding military pilots - I read a book called 'Vipers in the Storm' by then USAF Capt. Keith Rosenkranz who flew F-16's in Desert Storm (awesome book by the way - definatley recommend it to everyone - is the website) and he talked about when his unit deployed overseas they left from the east coast and went nonstop to Saudi - 17 hours in the cockpit of a fighter - how bad did that suck?? At least we can get up and walk around. He said they refueled something like 22 times - I guess that keeps you busy but he also talked about taking the 'go pills' just to stay awake and about how they had to be helped out of the jets once they arrived.


PS - I have absolutley NO desire to fly a GV or GEX - cool airplanes but 14 hours in the air????? NO THANKS

Doug - Keith Rosenkranz started at Delta after Desert Storm and was a 727 FO out of DFW I believe - I had the opportunity to sit in his jumpseat from RDU to CVG one day - do you know him??
Didnt mean to throw the thread off topic, hehe.....I never realized the fuel burn was different. I knew that it would be higher, but not that much higher
Kinda seems bass acwards that a 160Kt headwind is better than a drop out of the jetstream.....
By the way - you are on the right track - when you're in the jet core sometimes an altitude change of only a few thousand feet will decrease your headwinds by 100 knots or more - we continually check the winds aloft forecast on the AFIS and try and choose the best altitude. Altitude changes of up to 5,000 feet for winds are fairly common but we usually don't go much lower than F290 or so.

Skyrunner - what exactly are 'go pills'?? I know they are some kind of uppers. I've noticed that the military has a unique outlook on fatigue -'be careful and get plenty of rest unless we need you to do something' - not only with flight crews but ground troops too. I saw an interview with a soldier several days ago on CNN saying that they had been up since the start of the war and this was like on day 3 - obviously they can't call a time out to take a nap - just saying that it must be awfully rough on those guys.

Once you get west of Manhattan, there's nothing else to look at

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what a true statment.

truthfully for us is isn't really an issue. our company is FIRM on following the crew mission hours etc. If we have a 5am departure, and a return departure at 6pm, we hit the hotel, and take a nappy until the folks at house keeping bang on the door to try and force some towels on you.

Another nice thing about flying charter, is the normal gig for me is for a 5am ramp.

3am alarm.
4:15 at the airport. make coffee for the trip preflight, pee.
5am off the ground
6am pick up pax at TEB or HPN (usually), then off to perhaps Ft Lauderdale.
Land at 9:30. dump the pax, clean the cabin, off to the hotel, beach, and if we are not doing a return that day.. cocktails on the beach by noon...

Not real fatiguing if you ask me
Skyrunner - what exactly are 'go pills'??

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Not trying to answer for Skyrunner, but go pills are essentially speed. Keep the pilot awake. I don't know if you remember, but two ANG pilots are on trial for manslaughter? after the friendly fire incident where a group of Canadian soldiers doing live fire drills in Afghanistan were accidentally shot. I think they were in a unit out of Texas (the ANG guys). Prosecutors are saying they were gooked up so much they didn't know what they were doing. They are saying they have no option but to take the go pills, AF enforced, etc. I saw the video of the incident and the pilots seemed to be in complete control. Just thought they were being fired upon in an area where they were not told of any drills taking place.
I thought go pills were those things you buy at the gas station? The little packet of pills they allways keep by the counter. I think they are nothing more than ephedra and caffiene....does a body good....
Go pills are along those lines but I think what the military uses is more 'intense' so to speak.

Wait Doug:
If you are flying an 8 plus hour transatlantic flight you cannot read a newspaper?? That would get a little boring! As an aside, when you are able to bid international flights, is there extra training? If you are a 767 domestic pilot, can you just bid a flight to Rome and not receive any training? Do you return to class(Atlanta?)

In my airplane our longest legs are about two hours (IAD to TYS or DTW), but we fly multiple legs. I have had over seven hours of flight time within fourteen hour duty day.

We talk a lot on long legs. We also do our paperwork such as Jepp and operating manual revisions. If we can find or steal a newspaper, we might also look at that enroute. I also sip water or cokes (fringe benefits liberated from the galley.... woohoo!) or eat ice. Additionally, I try to make sure that I get plenty of sleep the night before.

Once we figured out how long it would take to balance the fuel in our tanks and then turned on the crossfeed to check our work. We also play a version of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. We just don't require Kevin Bacon movies to make it easier.

Here is a link to a NASA study on fatigue.