Fighting Fatigue


If you’re doing it right, a long-distance flight can be boring. Sitting in the same seat for hours at a time, watching George fly the airplane and occasionally acknowledging a frequency change isn’t the most stimulating way to spend an afternoon. If there’s no weather to worry about, and if you’re in airspace with little traffic, there simply isn’t much to do except scan the gauges, switch tanks every now and then, keep track of your position and look out the windows.

It likely was on a flight like this that the axiom “hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror” was coined. Fighting boredom also can help minimize fatigue (although many other factors can contribute to fatigue). How to keep yourself interested, stimulated and “in the loop” on an otherwise boring long-distance flight? Two suggestions:

Personal electronic devices—the smartphones and tablets we use in the cockpit as electronic flight bags—also have the ability to play audio files like music or spoken works. Happily, many newer headsets and intercom systems feature input jacks to accommodate standard patch cords, allowing pilots and passengers to enjoy some entertainment on an otherwise boring flight. Our experience with in-flight entertainment in personal aircraft demonstrates that the right kind of audio programming can help enliven an otherwise boring trip, allowing us to remain alert and engaged in what’s going on.

Whether you need to update your personal logbook, confirm the status of various aircraft inspections, record flight time, write down some squawks, perform VOR checks or plan the next leg of the day, flying straight and level with the autopilot engaged can be a good opportunity to catch up on some of the paperwork demands flying imposes. We wouldn’t suggest spending a lot of head-down time at it—there are other things you should be doing—but focusing on some of these tasks can break up the monotony. While you’re in straight-and-level flight at altitude also is a good time to organize charts and plan for the arrival and landing at your destination.



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