fatigued with severe negative effects on performance. There are degrees of fatigue and degrees of the negative effects of fatigue on performance. Moreover, fatigue is highly variable and is influenced by a number of factors, including amount of sleep, time awake, workload, time on task, and time of day.
Concern about the potential contribution to fatigue from time spent commuting to a duty station—known as a pilot’s domicile—increased following a fatal Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, New York, on February 12, 2009. The crash, and the first officer’s cross-country commute, received substantial media attention. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was “the captain’s inappropriate response” to a low speed condition (National Transportation Safety Board, 2010b, p. 155). The NTSB report identified multiple contributing factors related to flight crew and corporate responsibilities. That report did not list fatigue or commuting as a probable cause or contributing factor in the accident report. Instead, the Board concluded that “the pilots’ performance was likely impaired because of fatigue, but the extent of their impairment and the degree to which it contributed to the performance deficiencies that occurred during the flight cannot be conclusively determined” (National Transportation Safety Board, 2010b, p. 108).
Against this backdrop, in September 2010, Congress, through the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-216), directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to revise its regulations related to work and duty hours to reflect current research. The law also directed the FAA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences, through the National Research Council, to conduct a study of the effects of pilot commuting on fatigue. The Committee on the Effects of Commuting on Pilot Fatigue was constituted to carry out the mandated study, which is intended to inform the development of the commuting-related aspects of the FAA regulations also specified in the act.
The committee was directed to review information in seven specified areas. These areas were (1) the prevalence of pilots commuting in the commercial air carrier industry, including the number and percentage of pilots who commute greater than 2 hours each way to work; (2) characteristics of commuting by pilots, including distances traveled, time zones crossed, time spent, and methods used; (3) the impact of commuting on pilot fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms; (4) commuting policies of commercial air carriers (including passenger and all-cargo air carriers), including pilot check-in requirements and sick leave and fatigue policies; (5) post-conference materials from the FAA’s June 2008 symposium titled “Aviation Fatigue