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Pilot workload and fatigue on four intra-European routes: a 12-month mixed-methods evaluation


There were predictions that the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA’s) new Flight Time Limitations (FTLs) (European Union Regulation 83/2014) would adversely affect safety. Following implementation of the new regulations, research into flight-crew fatigue and workload was conducted at a medium-sized U.K-registered low-cost carrier (LCC). A mixed-methods approach drawing on instantaneous self-assessment (ISA) and participant observation was used to measure fatigue and workload on four intra-European routes. A modified U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine Crew Status Survey recorded ISA data on fatigue and workload. The author’s flight-deck observations generated data on the context of flight operations. Two findings stand out. First, 7.1% of those who completed the inbound Top-of-Climb–Top-of-Descent scale claimed to be either ‘Extremely tired’ or ‘Completely exhausted.’ Secondly, 9.3% of those who completed the inbound Top-of-Descent–On-Blocks scale claimed to be either ‘Extremely tired’ or ‘Completely exhausted.’ Pilots recorded maximum and average workload in the range 5–7 most often for phases Boarding–Off-blocks and Top-of-descent–On-blocks. The author recommends that further mixed-methods research into fatigue and workload be conducted at this and other carriers operating under European Union Regulation 83/2014. Research should be conducted regularly.

Keywords: European Aviation Safety Agency European Union Regulation 83/2014, flight-time limitations, fatigue, workload, instantaneous self-assessment, participant observation, low-cost carrier


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