Take a Fatigue “Selfie”!

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In a previous article I discussed cognitive bias as it relates to flight operations. Although I just hinted at this in the previous article, let me be clear now:

Fatigue will exacerbate all of the negative aspects of cognitive bias.

Recently, a friend and classmate of mine, Captain Jimmy Rollison sent me some photos he took of himself after discussing with a psychologist how to recognize visible signs of fatigue in himself and those who he was flying with. What follows is his narrative and photos.  I think this is a useful idea.  As ubiquitous as cell phones are now, it would be really simple to just snap a “selfie” at various intervals during the flight.  Here is what Jimmy wrote, shared with permission:

It was suggested that I take a before & after photo of when I depart on a flight what could be described as “challenging”. Several weeks later I had planned and was going to embark on flying a 1948 Formula 1 Cleveland race plane from Frost Proof, FL to Vacaville, CA. 

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This plane is commonly referred to as a “Midget Mustang” being the prototype for this. It has an 85 hp engine, 8 gallons of gas, no electrical system, meaning no radios, starter (hand prop) or lights. This airplane had been in storage for 8 years prior to my purchase. Range with :45 reserves is 150 miles, hence on a trip of 2,650 statute miles, 140 mph true with head winds, I had 24 fuel stops in 25 hours flying time.

 

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This is the photo taken at the start of the trip.

 I spent the first night outside Dallas, at McKinney, TX and while hoping to make it home on day two I ran into headwinds, and ran out of energy, daylight and gas at Twenty Nine Palms for night two. 52 hours after the first takeoff, I arrived home in Vacaville. The photos you have are the beginning and end of that trip in 2005.

 

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This is the photo at the end of the trip

 I have not flown the plane since, and don’t really care to!

 This was a priceless demonstration to me personally. I now use this occasionally on long international trips and on certain trips, the outcome looks the same.

Take a look at his photos, the “before” and “after”.  I don’t think any of us could argue that the “after” photo is the face of fatigue  Now consider this in light of the cognitive biases that can get you killed while flying.

Fly safe, don’t violate sterile cockpit rules, but maybe consider at strategic points on your flight do, as the band, The Chainsmokers, song Selfie parodies when they say “first, let me take a selfie”!

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About Shem Malmquist FRAeS

B-777 Captain. Air Safety and Accident Investigator. Previous experience includes Flight Operations Duty Officer, Assistant Chief Pilot. Line Check Airman, ALPA Aircraft Technical and Engineering Chairman, Aircraft Performance and Designs Committee MEC Chair, Charting and Instrument Procedures Committee, Group Leader-Commercial Aviation Safety Team-Joint Safety Implementation Team (CAST)-Loss of Control-Human Factors and Automation, CAST-JSIT- Aircraft State Awareness. Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, full Member of ISASI, AIAA, IEEE, HFES, FSF, AFA and the Resilience Engineering Association.
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