Effects of Napping on Pilot Performance: An Experimental Study
Authors: Lenka Hanakova, Viktor Valenta, Aleš Řezníček, Roman Matyas, Vladimir Socha
Abstract: Several strategies can be employed to combat a sudden onset of fatigue. Napping is widely used as one of these strategies. Commercial airlines allow one pilot on flight deck duty to avail of a short rest period in the pilot seat while the other pilot is responsible for the aircraft control – this technique is called controlled rest. Controlled rest is considered a tool to enhance flight safety; this is based on the premise that reducing fatigue leads to an improved pilot condition in the context of cognitive and motor functions. However, this assumption has not been explored on an experimental level and is not supported by objective data. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of control rest on pilot performance. Ten pilots participated in the study. The experiment consisted of four experimental flights in a simulator. Two flights were flown on the first night of the experiment without a controlled rest period and several days later another two night flights were flown with a controlled rest period. Deviations from the instrument landing system guidance during the final approach phase were evaluated in terms of precision and accuracy. The analysis of flight data revealed an improvement in horizontal path tracking for flight with controlled rest; this is further supported by the evaluation of excessive deviations in 3D space. On the other hand, significant performance degradation is observed in the vertical plane for flights with controlled rest.
Keywords: Aviation, Controlled Rest, Fatigue, Napping, Performance, Piloting Precision
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