Feature Story

Fighting Fatigue

In Boeing’s ongoing commitment to safety, the airplane maker has partnered with Delta Airlines to study the effects of fatigue on pilots. “We are investigating fatigue that we see in commercial pilots, and studying them under rested and fatigued conditions to see what their performance is like,” said Boeing Human Factors Systems Engineer, Lisa Thomas.

More than 60 Delta pilots are participating in an 18-month study conducted by Boeing’s Fatigue Risk Management team. The study begins with 2 weeks of monitoring pilots’ daily routine to set a baseline of individual fatigue levels. Then it’s off to Seattle for two days in a Boeing 777 flight simulator. The first day pilots are monitored in a rested condition. Followed by a day of flying in a fatigued condition.

"Just the fact that Boeing is doing something about it, that they are trying to put together a study. I think that's real exciting."

“We have them show up at about 5 PM, get in the flight deck and start flying around 7 or 8 PM and then finish up at 2 or 3 in the morning,” said Thomas.

Over the course of the two days, a myriad of data on the pilots is collected. Monitoring details like heart rate, facial expression, eye blinking, body posture, and speech patterns.

The ultimate goal is to imbed technologies in a flight deck that can monitor and prevent fatigue related events.

It’s an endeavor that is welcomed by Delta pilot, Stan King, “Just the fact that Boeing is doing something about it, that they are trying to put together a study. I think that's real exciting.”

Read more and see more photos in May’s issue of Frontiers Magazine.