Student Drowsiness During Simulated Solo Flight

Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2022 Apr 1;93(4):354-361. doi: 10.3357/AMHP.5275.2022.


INTRODUCTION: Pilot fatigue is a significant concern in aviation, where efforts are directed at improving rosters, developing models, and improving countermeasures. Little attention has been given to in-flight detection of fatigue/drowsiness. The aims of this research were to determine whether drowsiness is an issue and explore whether infrared reflectance oculography could prove useful for continuous inflight monitoring.METHODS: Nine university-based pilot trainees wore activity monitors and completed diaries, prior to a simulated navigational exercise of approximately 4 h, during the secondary window of circadian low. During the flight they wore a head-mounted device. Oculographic data were collected and converted into a single number, using the Johns Drowsiness Scale (JDS), with increasing values indicating greater drowsiness (range 0.0 to 10.0).RESULTS: Peak JDS values reached 6.5. Values declined from shortly before top of descent, continuing until landing. Two of the nine participants (22.2%), reached drowsiness levels at or above a cautionary warning level, below which is considered safe for driving a motor vehicle.DISCUSSION: The results of this study revealed the timeline and levels of fatigue that might be experienced by student pilots; showing that drowsiness is a potential issue for student pilots operating in flying conditions similar to those in the simulation. Analysis indicated that pilots are likely to experience levels of drowsiness above a cautionary warning level when modeling predicted effectiveness below 90%, indicating a potential drowsiness issue for pilots. It was concluded that oculography is worthy of further investigation for use as an objective fatigue detection tool in aviation.Corbett MA, Newman DG. Student drowsiness during simulated solo flight. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2022; 93(4):354-361.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Aviation*
  • Attention
  • Aviation*
  • Humans
  • Students
  • Wakefulness