Possible fatigue, degraded situational awareness
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that fatigue is something only likely to be suffered by professional pilots. If you have not had sufficient rest you should not fly an aircraft at any level, professional or amateur. Fatigue is a temporary illness only curable by quality sleep. Ensure over the previous 72 hours before you fly that you have had 3 periods of at least 6-8 hours interrupted sleap.
Research has shown that the effects of fatigue are similar to moderate alcohol consumption. The result is significantly delayed response and reaction times, impaired reasoning, reduced vigilance and impaired hand-eye coordination. Research has shown that after 17 hours of wakefulness, fatigue-related impairment is equivalent to a breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 per cent. After 24 hours of wakefulness, this increases to a BAC of 0.10 per cent – well over the legally prescribed limit for operating a motor vehicle. For a pilot who only has four hours sleep a night, research has shown that just one beer can have the impact of a six-pack.
A chartered Gulfstream III aircraft struck a light pole about three miles southwest of the destination and crashed in poor weather while on an ILS approach. The aircraft was being repositioned from Dallas Love Field to Houston where it was scheduled to pick up former President, George H. W. Bush, and several other passengers. At the time of the accident, two pilots and a flight attendant were aboard the aircraft, and all three perished.
The investigation found the probable cause of this accident was the flight crew’s failure to monitor and cross-check the flight instruments adequately during the approach. Contributing to the accident was the flight crew’s failure to select the instrument landing system frequency in a timely manner and to adhere to approved company approach procedures, including the stabilised approach criteria.
The investigation report also mentioned fatigue. According to the captain’s wife, on The night before the accident, the captain received about four hours less sleep than normal. A company employee stated that when the captain arrived for work on the morning of the accident, he looked as though he had just woken up. The first officer’s wife stated that the first officer did not have regular sleeping hours and that she was not sure how much he slept the night before the accident. Although the early reporting time for the accident flight might have resulted in flight crew fatigue, the actual amount and quality of sleep received by the captain and the first officer could not be determined.
Given the facts uncovered about crew sleep, the investigators found fatigue may have played a role in the flight crew’s degraded situational awareness.