Cathay Pacific

Pilots on 5.6pc of flights fatigued

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am

Pilots on more than one in 20 Cathay Pacific flights suffer from fatigue when they begin their descents to airports, according to a groundbreaking survey into fatigue in the cockpit.

The survey - which involved detailed analysis of 372 Cathay Pacific flights and was conducted by the airline - found pilots on 21 or 5.6 per cent of flights were at least mildly fatigued at the top of their descents.

News of the findings come after controversy over the leaking of a photo showing a pilot taking a 'power nap' at the controls of a flight from Dubai to Hong Kong - a practice allowed in certain circumstances to prevent fatigue at critical times.

The picture was leaked by someone claiming to be from flight operations and concerned about fatigue among pilots.

The captain complained and disciplinary action is being taken against the person who took the photograph, suspected to be a co-pilot or a flight attendant.

In the fatigue survey, conducted in November and December last year, pilots filled out forms volunteering information about how tired they felt when flights begin descending.

The survey measured fatigue on the Samn-Perelli Fatigue Checklist scale of one to seven. One is ranked as fully alert, two as very lively but not at peak, three as okay, four as a little tired, five as moderately tired, six as extremely tired, and seven as completely exhausted.

The survey was part of a comprehensive fatigue risk management system set up by the airline in response to long-standing concerns over difficulties faced by crews flying across multiple time zones.

'We believe this is the largest fatigue survey ever conducted by an international airline,' a Cathay spokeswoman said. 'The survey results indicated that in only 5.6 per cent of the flights surveyed, pilots reported a Samn-Perelli score of more than 5, which is defined as being moderately tired. That is far from being rendered incapacitated by fatigue.'

Risk mitigation measures had already been implemented for some of the flights identified as potentially problematic, she said.

A senior person in the Hong Kong Airline Pilots Association said scores of 5 or above on the Samn-Perelli scale were 'a long way off falling asleep on the flight deck'.

'We are ... currently trialling advanced software to assist us in [actively] reducing our fatigue profile even further,' the person said.


The altitude, in kilometres, at which this Cathay Pacific pilot was photographed asleep in the cockpit of a flight from Dubai to Hong Kong