If you think your biggest worry about flying should be whether your plane will plunge from the sky due to equipment malfunction, you are wrong. Your biggest worry about flying should be about pilot error and whether the pilot and co-pilot have normal “core body temperatures” as they enter the cockpit.
Core body temperatures? Yes, a normal core body temperature is proof positive that a pilot is ready to fly again and that he or she has recovered from the chronobiological dyschronism (AKA jet lag) that results from harebrained flight schedules.
In The New York Times, Sunday, May 17, 2009 edition, “Capt. Paul Nietz, 58, who recently retired from a regional airline, said his schedule wore him down and cost him three marriages. His workweek typically began with a 2:30 a.m. wake-up in northern Michigan and a 6 a.m. flight to his Chicago home bases. There he would have to wait for his first assignment, a noon departure.
By the time he parked his aircraft at the last gate of the night, he was exhausted. But he would be due back at work eight hours and 15 minutes later.”
You want this guy piloting your plane?
The National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration, and Airline Pilots Association Have Their Fingers In Their Ears
These people have to have been deaf, dumb and blind over the past 40 years not to have taken seriously Dr. Charles F. Ehret’s recommendations about ideal pilot schedules and INSISTED upon their immediate implementation. For heaven’s sake, Dr. Ehret was the world’s leading authority on jet lag and a consultant to the airlines. His research was paid for by the U. S. Government.
Pilot Fatigue is Your Fault Too
“Why?” I asked Dr. Ehret, “don’t the airlines take your advice about ideal pilot schedules to prevent pilot error?”
Dr. Ehret told me that the problem was the passenger. Airlines try to please YOU with schedules that allow YOU to arrive at YOUR destination at a time convenient for YOU. YOU want to arrive from New York in London at 7 a.m. destination time so YOU can get in a full day of activity. Pilots’ needs be damned.
So pilots, who would normally be sleeping at night (we are daytime creatures programmed to be awake during the day and to shut down at night), are forced to fight Mother Nature’s normal sleep/wake patterns as the jet streaks through the night. And you wonder why pilots nod off and can’t react quickly in an emergency?
According to that same article in The New York Times, “. . . in some operations, the big airlines are more vulnerable. They are now conducting flights of 16 hours, across more time zones than a pilot can be expected to adapt to.”
Passengers should not only carry passports and tickets when they arrive at the airport, but rectal thermometers as well.
Note from the coauthor of The Cure for Jet Lag: There is a special section in The Cure for Jet lag called “Pilots and Air Crew Members.” It briefly talks about three techniques that Dr. Charles F. Ehret suggests to help pilots fight fatigue and chronobiological dyschronism. However, until the “powers that be” allow pilots and air crews to fly consistent, reasonable “shifts” and eliminate the ever changing, eratic work schedules that are routine for pilots and crew members, Dr. Ehret’s recommendations are bandaides on the problem at best.