Picture this. Hundreds of passengers seated in a long haul flight across the Atlantic. When it is time to land, the aircraft continues on its course, not descending or responding to the Air Traffic Control or other radio messages. Because the pilots are asleep in the cockpit.
Sounds scary, doesn't it. But is it far from being a figment of imagination.
Pilot fatigue is a problem that is plaguing the airline industry today. Every airline has clear rules about pilots resting during flights, but with the busy schedules, multiple time zones covered and jet lag, it is only natural for pilots to feel sleepy or drowsy on long haul flights.
A cockpit is one of the most boring places to be, during a flight. Once you’ve taken off and set a course, the autopilot takes over.
So a pilot’s role gets restricted to making periodic checks to ensure that all is well.
On a really long flight, that can get monotonous, boring and most importantly can make the pilots drowsy.
There have been a multitude of cases reported in the media recently, which highlight the scary ‘near misses’ caused by pilots nodding off mid flight.
So how can it be tackled?
Controlled rest. This is usually the process followed, where the pilot and the co pilot take turns to sleep, so that at least one flying crew member is awake at all times.
However, this may not always work. Both the pilot and copilot are only human, and can dose off unwittingly leading to an emergency like situation. Also, beyond physical fatigue, mental fatigue is also an important factor, and if you're tired mentally, no amount of sleep can make you alert.
Air France, in the past, came up with a solution. They offered their pilots a dose of Adrafinil before flights, to keep them awake and alert through it.
Adrafinil is a stimulant, discovered decades ago by scientists in France. What the drug does, it to act on stimulating Hypocretin in your body, which in turn leads to higher secretion of Norepinephrine, Dopamine and Histamines. Find out more about how it works on this site here or read about nootropics in general at this link.
As a result, one feels more alert and awake mentally.
Some consider the drug to be harmful, due to the fact that it is on the prohibited list of the Anti Doping Agency, WADA.
However, research has shown that the side effects of the drug are minor when compared with the benefit it brings on board.
It is used extensively, all over the world, by night shift workers, students and those who need to be alert for long periods of time.
It is possible to buy adrafinil online as Adrafinil is legally available on the internet and over the counter at pharmacies around the globe. It is not a scheduled drug in many countries, which include Canada, U.K. and America. In other countries, doctors prescribe it.
Users of the drug have reported higher productivity alertness and an overall ability to stay awake at odd hours.
Adrafinil could be a solution to tackling pilot fatigue. Surprising that the drug is not used more extensively across the airline industry.
It could help avert disasters and save hundreds of lives.