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Fatigue Assessment in Camp Mirage CC130 Aircrew: Recommendations for Pharmacologic Intervention

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An acute fatigue issue with serious flight safety implications was uncovered during a recent deployment among aircrews conducting tactical airlift between Camp Mirage CM and Kabul. This acute fatigue issue is due to jet lag-induced sleep deprivation. The relief aircrews arriving in CM have been deployed across 9 time zones, but are pressed into the tactical airlift schedule after only 2 nights of sleep at CM. Thus, they undertake their first mission with an acute sleep deficit. In spite of the fact that the arriving relief crew spent an average of 7.75 hours in bed the night before their first mission, they slept only an average of 3.4 hrs. This was due circadian desynchronosis their body clocks were significantly retarded relative to local time. The very low sleep-efficiency in the arriving crew 44, the night before their first mission was a serious flight safety concern, especially because they were flying over hostile territory in a demanding tactical environment over a 14-hour crew day. Using the USAF performance modelling software, objective sleep data and actual crew duty day data, we estimated crewmember cognitive effectiveness during duty days for the two crews mentioned, above. We also estimated crewmember cognitive effectiveness for crews flying a nighttime schedule several months earlier. RESULTS. The model estimates indicated the following a the crew which commenced operations on their 3rd day in theatre, were operating at dangerously low levels of cognitive performance on their first mission, b their cognitive performance deficits improved over time and were no longer evident after 9 days in theatre, c another crew, having been in theatre for a month were no longer jetlagged and had acceptable cognitive performance, and d because a significant portion of the missions in the preceding months were flown at night, the model indicated that the crewmembers cognitive performance would be impacted dramatically by fatigue.

Subject Categories:

  • Stress Physiology
  • Pharmacology

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