Fatigue is Impairment. Period.
It seems as though some in the aviation business are operating under the impression that fatigue is not a big deal. Some have gone so far as to claim on the record that "[fatigue]'s never been identified as a contributing factor in any commercial aviation accident or incident in recent ... in as long as I can remember."(1) Or how about this: “I don’t know of one cargo accident in North America because of fatigue.”(2)
I’m shocked that anyone in this industry would profess such ignorance.
To be clear, science tells us very clearly that fatigue is a form of impairment – it degrades mental and physical performance. The impairment caused by fatigue affects all pilots, not just those flying passenger planes. Transport Canada’s fatigue regulations must apply to all pilots.
In 2009, Colgan Air 3407 crashed into a house in Buffalo, killing all 49 on board and one on the ground. The NTSB stated, “The pilots’ performance was likely impaired because of fatigue.”(3)
It was only four short years ago that UPS Airlines Flight 1354 and its crew were lost. Of the six factors contributing to that tragic accident, the US National Transportation Safety Board determined that two were fatigue-related.(4)
If four years ago is too long to remember, how about this article from April 2016:
"Let me be very direct: Fatigue is a killer," said Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, whose successful 2009 water landing of a disabled US Airways jetliner in New York was dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson." "It's a ruthless indiscriminate killer that our industry and our regulators have allowed to continue killing for way too long." Speaking on the floor shortly before the news conference, [Senator] Boxer highlighted a conversation between UPS pilots about rest periods shortly before a deadly 2013 crash in Alabama.
"Since 1990, there have been 14 U.S. cargo plane crashes involving fatigue, including a UPS crash in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed two crew members. The (National Transportation Safety Board) cited pilot fatigue as a factor," she said. "Let's listen to the pilot conversation which was retrieved after the plane crash. Let's hear what those pilots who were exhausted said to one another."(5)(6)
In 2004, MK Airlines Limited Flight 1602 crashed on departure from Halifax, killing all 7 on board. In the final report, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board declared that fatigue represented two of the eight causes and contributing factors.(7)
It’s said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. That’s why it is so alarming that air operators in Canada are either quick to forget or unaware of these major fatigue-related accidents in the cargo sector. This blinkered, profit-driven approach to cargo transport endangers both pilots and the public on the ground. By refusing to believe the science and facts behind fatigue, by fighting against modern, science-based regulations harmonized with countries such as the United States, air operators and their industry lobbyists are trying to condemn Canadian pilots to suffering substandard rules for flying.
I encourage the President and CEO of Cargojet, as I encourage the leadership of all air operators, to embrace the facts about fatigue and advocate for Transport Canada to adopt rules based on science and international best practice.