You may have read that the pilots of the go! airlines regional jet were fired after they overflew Hilo on the short flight from Honolulu. The explanation, at this point in the investigation, was that both crew members were asleep and failed to respond to repeated ATC calls for descent.
Contrary to the usual profile of a hard days night after flying all day, this incident occurred mid morning and while it may be amusing to some, especially since no injury or damage was done, the FAA and industry should look at the root cause. You couldn’t find a much more contentious issue between airline management and pilots than duty time requirements – except perhaps money.
The FAA has rules in place but some question how effective they really are in preventing both acute and chronic fatigue. There is ample anecdotal evidence that many crews are really tired. The same applies to charter operators.
You might say it’s not GA’s problem unless you happen to be sitting in the back of a jet behind one these somnambulistic crews but my reason to understand fatigue better is that it may play a significant part in GA flight operations as well.
GA Night accident rates are significantly higher than day and we have occasions where “capable and competent” pilots just lost it. Why? Hypoxia? Yes, I’ll buy that. Fatigue – yep and based on the number of car and truck accidents due to fatigue, I’d say it was a factor in quite a number of GA accidents. How many? Can’t answer that since it doesn’t leave any markers and dead pilots tell no tales.
It’s something that the AOPA Air Safety Foundation may take a look at in the future. Would sure appreciate your response to the following:
A. Not a problem for me – never fly fatigued
B. Not a problem for me – but I have friends who have done so
C. I’ve had at least one instance where my performance was significantly degraded due to fatigue
D. It’s happened several times.