Alarms go off in the cockpit: 4 out of 5 pilots are tired

The Aviation Medicine Association and the Aerospace Medicine Platform conducted a comprehensive survey of pilots in Turkey. The result is frightening: “4 out of 5 pilots fly tired, 97% show signs of fatigue. The cockpit sleepiness rate is 81%”. THY wants pilots to further increase their flight times.

Alarms go off in the cockpit: 4 out of 5 pilots are tired

The Aviation Medicine Association and the Aviation and Space Medicine Platform have completed a research study on the fatigue perceptions of civilian airline pilots in Turkey. The survey was conducted between March 1 and June 20, 2022.

No private information (name, company, etc.) to reveal their identities was requested from participants. The questionnaire had 47 questions and 1 open feedback section. Responses were statistically evaluated and expert interpretations were made.
Similar studies carried out by the two institutions, which were concerned with the humanitarian aspects of flight safety and established trust in the industry with their apolitical and impartial approaches, in 2008, 2012 and 2013 were presented at the Turkish Airline Pilots Association (TALPA) and were brought onto the parliamentary agenda to pave the way for the necessary changes to the regulations.

The last survey of the two institutions, in which 802 pilots participated, also revealed very remarkable results. Some of the highlights of the survey, which clearly reveals the vital risks in Turkish aviation, are as follows:

When participating pilots were asked whether the relationship between fatigue and flight safety concepts was taken into account by companies, it was revealed that 74% did not believe it was taken into account, and 18% thought it was.


This is perhaps the most important question of the survey: the total rate of people who did not experience severe fatigue during their duties but did experience ‘vigorous or ordinary’ fatigue was 20%, while the total rate of people who felt ‘extremely tired and very tired’ was 80%. That means 4 out of 5 riders are tired…

It was observed that fatigue decreased on flights in the days following free days, but fatigue was still reported at an average level of 61%.

Only 13% of pilots reported their unsuitability to the company and requested the removal of the flight list; It was understood that 66% of them went to the flight exhausted without informing their status.

Yawning, falling head over heels, closing eyes 97 percent

The rate of finding objective signs of fatigue (yawning, diminished attention, delayed reaction to questions, head dropping forward, eyes closed, etc.) was 97% in the pilot who flew along during the mission. The fact that almost all pilots notice the signs of fatigue in the other can be interpreted as an alarm signal…


Yawning and drowsiness or falling asleep involuntarily and unnoticed during the task are among the causes of accidents in traffic drivers and in aviation pilots. Micro-sleep occurs 3 times more during night flights than during the day. Big ones
It has been reported that micro-sleep is seen 1.38 times per hour per pilot on flights. The survey frequency percentage is 80. This is much higher than expected.

In tasks starting at 00:00 midnight and beyond, a fatigue rate of more than 80% was found, a result of the question asked to participants at the beginning of the survey and which measures their “recent level of fatigue related to their tasks”. 81 percent of pilots said they felt moderately and above fatigue.


As a result, the survey results reveal that pilots in Turkey have serious fatigue issues, even if some of them are considered exaggerated. It is well known that airline administrations turn to national authority to increase, let alone reduce, pilots’ flight hours. Managers argue that flight hours comply with international law, albeit within the maximum limits. However, experts who follow the matter closely point out an important point:

The EASA FTL Directive – Flight Crew Flight Duty and Rest Periods and Practice Principles, which is still in force in Europe, was copied exactly for Turkey. 95% of European airports are closed to traffic between 23:00 and 05:00 at night due to noise, and the EASA FTL was designed with this in mind. For example, in Germany at 01:00 am from Munich to Berlin, Hamburg. You cannot fly from Stuttgart, from Nuremberg to Cologne. There are no airport noise regulations in Turkey. Considering that all airports are open 24 hours and flights are made, it should be taken into account that EASA FTL mismatch in Turkish civil aviation and unsafe cumulative fatigue may result. For domestic flights with 3 or 4 segments after 00:00, which have no equivalent with us in EASA FTL: Work and rest periods must be prepared in accordance with Turkish operations that do not cause cumulative fatigue based on scientific data , and crew planning should be done accordingly.

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