There have been times when we may not have had enough sleep the previous evening or skipped breakfast before going to work in the morning. However, there are some professions where not getting the proper sleep, or reporting in an empty stomach, sapping you of energy, could have disastrous consequences.
The point was brought dramatically home recently when it was reported a trainee pilot in Australia had not slept the night before and had not had a proper breakfast, was unconscious for over half an hour, during a flight.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, otherwise referred to as the ATSB, carried out a thorough investigation on the incident, involving a solo navigation flight departing from Parafield, near Adelaide to Port Augusta airport in South Australia.
The pilot had been flying for approximately 40 minutes, at a height of around 5,500ft, when he suffered a headache and turned on the autopilot. According to reports, just after relinquishing manual control of the aircraft, he suddenly fell unconscious. He was unable to receive calls from air traffic control, who tried many times to get in touch. In the end, the pilot had lost consciousness for a period of around 40 minutes.
Fortunately, the aircraft was seen by a passing plane flying over the sea close to Adelaide. The other plane noticed the pilot had woken up and provided his aircraft with an escort until it safely returned to Parafield, where he started from.
Afterwards, the investigation revealed the pilot had spoken the night before the flight about getting over a mild cold and having trouble sleeping.
It transpired that in the morning prior to taking off in Parafield, the pilot had not had any breakfast. The report also said that, during a stopover in Port Augusta, he had drunk some water, a bottle of Gatorade and ate a chocolate bar and that was all.
The incident has highlighted the risks of fatigue and lack of energy through missing food, leading the flight school training the pilot to make changes. The ATSB has stated that, before a flight, students have to say how long it has been since they last ate and what they had. They also must reveal how much they have slept in the past two days and if they have had a restless night prior to a flight.
There is no doubt being sleep deprived, or not eating properly, can affect how you do your job. It may not always have such potentially catastrophic consequences, but it can impact your concentration, drive and energy levels, affecting your performance. Therefore, it is important to get the best sleep possible to function at your full potential.
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