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Long Commutes for Pilots May Hamper Flying Performance: Study
Date:7/6/2011

ittle research has been done about pilot commuting, the report recommends that pilots get better training about activities they should avoid before showing up for work.

According to the report, pilots should plan their commutes and other pre-duty activities so they will not be up for more than 16 hours after they have completed their day's work.

In addition, pilots should get at least six hours of sleep before reporting for work. Pilots should also get at least six hours of sleep during their work cycles to prevent the cumulative effect of fatigue, the report cautioned.

These guidelines are based on sleep science, said Oster.

"It can be difficult for people to assess their own level of fatigue," he continued. It's easy for pilots to tell when they are extremely fatigued, but there is a continuum that makes it difficult to assess when their performance suffers, he said.

"We would like to see pilots get more training on the patterns they should try to maintain and in how to assess their fatigue," Oster added.

The committee also recommends that the FAA fund a study of commuting distances and other risk factors for fatigue, such as "sleep quantity in the 48 hours before the end of duty on each day of the trip." Some pilots commute hundreds of miles to work or even from the other side of the country before reporting to duty, according to airline safety advocates.

The report noted that less than one-quarter of pilots had a commute distance of more than 750 miles between their "homes of record (i.e., those designated by the pilots on IRS forms and for the receipt of official notices from the airlines)" and the location where they had to report for duty. In addition, 2 percent of mainline pilots and 1 percent of regional pilots either had a coast-to-coast commute or commuted to work from another country, the report stated.

However, the authors cautioned that these figures, based on the zip codes of pilots' "homes of reco
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