February 2001 Issue

Graveyard Shift

Changing your sleep patterns to meet flying schedules can put your safety at risk

The pilot reported for work as scheduled at 2 a.m. for a Part 135 light cargo flight, flying a Piper Lance from Burbank, Calif., to Phoenix, Ariz. He arrived at Phoenix and managed to get about five hours of sleep, waking at about noon local time.

On the next leg of the flight – the return to Burbank – he took off at 20:55 local. Several hours later, while maintaining a constant altitude, heading and airspeed, he collided with a mountain near Palm Springs –about 10 nautical miles south of his usual course. The investigators could find no evidence that indicated that the pilot had attempted to avoid the collision.

Investigators could find no mechanical reasons for the crash. After exam...

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