Nearly everyone experiences fatigue, but some professions--such as aviation, medicine and the military--demand alert, precise, rapid, and well-informed decision making and communication with little margin for error. The potential for fatigue to negatively affect human performance is well established. Concern about this potential in the aviation context extends back decades, with both airlines and pilots agreeing that fatigue is a safety concern. A more recent consideration is whether and how pilot commuting, conducted in a pilot's off-duty time, may affect fatigue during flight duty.
In summer 2010 the U.S. Congress directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to update the federal regulations that govern pilot flight and duty time, taking into account recent research related to sleep and fatigue. As part of their directive, Congress also instructed FAA to have the Board on Human-Systems Integration oversee a study on the effects of commuting on pilot fatigue. The Effects of Commuting on Pilot Fatigue reviews research and other information related to the prevalence and characteristics of commuting; to the science of sleep, fatigue, and circadian rhythms; to airline and regulatory oversight policies; and to pilot and airline practices.
The report concludes that there is potential for pilots to become fatigued from commuting, but insufficient evidence to determine the extent to which pilot commuting has been a safety risk, inadequate data to specify or determine the effectiveness of regulations regarding pilot commuting, and no valid and reliable tools and techniques for detecting fatigue and fitness for duty pilots in an operational setting. The report then outlines potential next steps, including recommendations for regulatory or administrative actions, or further research by the FAA.