Oh, for a Good Night's Sleep

By By Ross Detwiler rossdetwiler@gmail.com
Source: Business & Commercial Aviation

Next came 12 hr. of crew rest and a return home, as passengers, in the back of our company plane. This short turn time wouldn't be allowed for most scheduled operations and I think that's valid because those folks may well be expected to repeat the same operation a week later. We weren't.

I rested well until the night before the Tokyo to London trip. Then I slept about 4 hr. and woke at five that morning. I was exhausted by the time I got to London. I did get about 3 hr. sleep in the back of the airplane on the second leg. The other pilot did the same (different 3 hr.) as we left the fresh pilot up front for the whole Fairbanks to London leg.

A Business Aviation Solution: Rest En route

During Desert Storm, we C-5 Galaxy crews routinely flew 24+ hour duty days with three pilots and two engineers. We'd leave the East Coast of the U.S., pick up a load in the central or even western U.S., and return east for a 12-hr. rest. Then we'd fly to Europe overnight, and get another 12 hr. off. The trips down range were started with a show time of four hours before takeoff, then fly 6 to 7 hr. to the Gulf, where we'd remain as much as 8 hr. on the ground, and then fly 6-7 hr. back and expend another hour before getting to rest again. After 12 hr. off, we'd start down range again, or go back to the States.

The U.S. Air Force allowed crews to fly over the ocean or remote desert areas with only an engineer and pilot up front. That period was grueling, but we had a Class 1 crew rest facility on board (see “Quiet isolation”) and we rested most of the time. Our job was to establish an “air bridge” to the Gulf, and we did.

I maintain that inflight crew rest is the key to operation of business aircraft on segments over 12 hr. in duration. In its study the FAA has much discussion about the recuperative value of a 30-min. nap adding as much as 90 min. of capability to the crewmember's alert cycle, along with details about when this rest occurs, what type of facility it occurs in and so forth. This is handled under the heading of “split crew rest.”

But we have to re-think our considerations of valid in-flight crew rest facilities aboard business aircraft. In a perfect world:

The rest facility cannot be merely a seat that partially reclines and is located next to the galley. That kind of space is usually full of foodstuffs, or when necessary, the flight attendant. It is tortuous rather than restful and it's in the way. To call that seat a crew rest facility, particularly while the flight attendant is working, is a stretch, at best.

There should be rest facilities to accommodate two aircrew.

At least two of the three pilots must be company captains. I found it much easier to sleep in the C-5, when the person I left up front was as qualified as me to handle the airplane. When that pilot wasn't as qualified, I didn't sleep.


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