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Abstract

While previous research focused on pilots’ fatigue, rosters, potential performance-impairment and aviation-safety, this research investigates, how pilots’ work-related and psychosocial stress and rosters can affect their sleep and fatigue. A cross-sectional online survey was completed by 192 pilots flying for European operators, 180 Australian pilots and 34 pilots from UAE, Turkey and Asia Pacific. Pilots reported their actual duty- and flight-hours, flown sectors, standby, rest, vacation days, number of early starts, night-flights and sports-hours for the last two months. Schedule-related data, way to work, age, flight-hours on the present type of aircraft, subjective job-security and psychosocial stress were used as independent variables to investigate, which significantly predict sleep problems (JSS) and fatigue (FSS). Seventy-six percent 76% of the active pilots reported significant fatigue (FSS≥4), 33.4% high fatigue (FSS≥5), although pilots were rostered for only 56.25% to 61.32% of the legally allowed duty and flight hours/month. Considerable sleep problems in ≥8 nights/month were reported by 24.2% pilots. Sleep problems were strongly associated with sleep restrictions and fatigue risks experienced on flight duty. More sleep problems were predicted by more stress and fatigue risks on flight duty. Higher fatigue-severity was predicted by more sleep problems, more stress, more fatigue risks experienced on flight duty, less physical exercise and shorter ways to work. Our findings suggest that present flight-time-limitations likely cannot prevent fatigue and potentially foster sleep-problems. In line with work-psychology and stress-research, psychosocial stress plays an important role for pilots’ sleep.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Alvarez IT Solutions for programming the online survey, IT-security and webhosting and my informal network of experienced pilots for their professional support, check-reading and valuable background information for this research.

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