Barbara Selby Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1983


October 25, 1994

Michael Mewhinney Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA (Phone: 415/604-9000) Hank Price Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/267-8521) RELEASE: 94-177 NASA HELPS PILOTS COMBAT FATIGUE DURING LONG FLIGHTS Scientists from NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, say scheduled rest by pilots during long flights reduces fatigue and improves alertness and performance. The findings are the result of a new study involving commercial pilots in long-haul flights -- those longer than 8 hours. The study was co-sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which allowed pilot rest periods in the cockpit during the study. "This report is an important part of the FAA's stepped-up research into human factors as causes of aviation accidents and adds vital information to our research efforts," said FAA Administrator David R. Hinson. Other participants in the study included the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, and the University of California, San Diego. "This study shows that controlled rest is one countermeasure to fatigue and jet lag that pilots in fact can use to reduce human error," said Dr. James P. Jenkins, Program Manager, Human-Systems Technology, in NASA's Office of Aeronautics, Washington, DC. During the study, which began in 1990, NASA scientists studied cockpit rest during regularly scheduled trans-Pacific flights over a 12-day period aboard Boeing 747s. Scientists flew a total of 28 flight legs during the study and collected

approximately 800 hours of data. During each 8 to 10-hour flight, two scientists sat in the cockpit to monitor the three crew members. -more-2Twenty-one volunteer pilots from two commercial airlines participated in the study. The pilots were randomly assigned to either a rest or no-rest group. Each pilot in the rest group took a planned in-flight nap of 40 minutes. Rest periods were rotated, with two pilots always in control of the aircraft. During the study, strict safety procedures were followed. Pilots slept during low workload periods during cruise flight over water. Rest periods ended at least one hour before descent and landing. "We found that when pilots get a nap, they maintain consistent performance," said Dr. Mark Rosekind, team leader of the Ames Fatigue Countermeasures Program. "Their performance was the same during the day and at night. Their performance also was the same at the end of the flight and after multiple flights." Pilots in the no-rest group also were observed. Although instructed to continue usual flight activities, four pilots fell asleep (a total of five times) for periods lasting from several minutes to over 10 minutes. Despite their findings, scientists say cockpit rest is not always recommended. "Safety is always first," Rosekind said. "Pilots would not use rest periods during a very busy flight or during bad weather," he said. Pilot reports to the Aviation Safety Reporting System -which NASA manages for the FAA -- was one important source that indicated the extent of sleep episodes in commercial airline cockpits. Because of the data, NASA and the FAA began systematically looking at a variety of fatigue countermeasures. Based partly on the results of this study, the FAA is currently reviewing a proposal to sanction controlled rest on the flight deck.

- end NOTE TO EDITORS: Copies of the study, entitled "Crew Factors in Flight Operations: IX. Effects of Planned Cockpit Rest on Crew Performance and Alertness in Long-Haul Operations," is available from the NASA Headquarters Newsroom. A photo is available by faxing NASA's Broadcast & Imaging Branch at 202/358-4333. The color photo number is 94-HC-156, the black & white is 94-H-163. NASA press releases and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type the words "subscribe pressrelease" (no quotes). The system will reply with a confirmation via E-mail of each subscription. A second automatic message will include additional information on the service. Questions should be directed to (202) 358-4043.