The National Sleep Foundation has just released a research report that says:
About one-fourth of train operators (26%) and pilots (23%) admit that sleepiness has affected their job performance at least once a week, compared to about one in six non-transportation workers (17%).
The results should be even more a concern among fliers:
One in five pilots (20%) admit that they have made a serious error and one in six train operators (18%) and truck drivers (14%) say that they have had a “near miss” due to sleepiness.
The thing about the results that is most shocking is not that pilots might fall asleep or get drowsy. The shock is that airlines allow this to be a problem at all. It is impossible that carriers are not aware of the issue. If the National Sleep Foundation can figure this out, the companies that employ the fliers cannot help but know it as well. Either that or they are guilty of tremendous negligence.
Somewhere in the headquarters of all the large airlines is a safety chief and his or her staff. These people probably check to make sure that Boeing (NYSE: BA) has not sent them planes with cracked wings and that mechanics do not use the wrong parts. These people may even make sure that the air inside their planes circulates often enough to make the air breathable and passengers comfortable.
The same safety staffs apparently would say they do not know that some of their pilots are drowsy. Because, if they admitted that, a certain number of planes probably would not fly on time. And that costs money.
Douglas A. McIntyre