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Is pilot fatigue impacting commercial airline safety?

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2022 | Commercial Airline Accidents

Flying a commercial plane requires a high level of attention and responsibility. Yet, many pilots across the nation are starting to experience notable levels of fatigue. When pilots experience fatigue or exhaustion, the chances of that pilot making an error or finding his or herself involved in a plane crash increase. This creates new dangers for everyone flying on their planes.

Per CNN, the pilot fatigue issue has become so widespread that one of the United States’ largest airlines now calls considers it the biggest safety threat it faces.

What contributes to pilot fatigue

There are many factors contributing to the rising number of commercial airline pilots who are experiencing exhaustion or fatigue.  Staffing shortages is a significant one. While estimates suggest that the number of people flying is returning to 2019 levels, the number of pilots and employees working for airlines has failed to rebound alongside it. In fact, the number of pilots retiring or not returning to their jobs increased notably over the past few years. Other factors contributing to commercial airline pilot fatigue include increased cancellations, many of which are the result of severe weather conditions.

How pilot fatigue heightens air travel risks

Fatigued and exhausted pilots are more prone to errors than their well-rested colleagues. In 2021, the Federal Aviation Safety Reporting System logged about 60 incidents where pilots made errors due to fatigue or exhaustion. A major U.S. airline also said it saw a spike in the number of fatigue reports received in March of 2022, receiving 35 such reports for every 10,000 pilot duty periods compared to 10 such reports during the same month in 2019.

Safety advocates believe that it is going to take more than increasing staff numbers to combat the current issues and risks associated with pilot fatigue.