AN ANALYSIS OF COLLEGIATE AVIATION PILOTS AND FATIGUE
Flying an airplane is a complex operation. Pilots must be able to manipulate the three-dimensional flight characteristics, maintain situational awareness, aircraft configurations, interpret charts, and handle communications with air traffic control. This requires maximum cognitive and psychomotor skills. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has added reducing fatigue-related accidents is on their top ten most wanted list. According to the NTSB (2019), fatigue “degrades a person’s ability to stay awake, alert, and attentive to the demands of safely controlling a vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or train” (p.18). Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has called on stakeholders, including the academic community, to reduce the number of accidents in the general aviation sector (Federal Aviation Administration, 2018). After a review of extant literature, most fatigue research in aviation pertains to airline and military operations (Keller, Mendonca, & Cutter, 2019; Levin, Mendonca, Keller, & Teo, 2019; Mendonca, Keller, Lu, 2019). However, collegiate aviation students have differences such as class scheduling, maturity, and regulations. Thus, making collegiate aviation pilots a unique population. Therefore, the purpose of this study was threefold: 1) To investigate the causes and symptoms of fatigue among collegiate aviation students. 2) To investigate whether there is a statistically significant association between enrollment status and a participant’s willingness to fly fatigued. 3) To investigate whether a participant’s age and flight hours predict their willingness to fly while fatigued. The researcher used a mixed-methods online-based survey to answer the research questions. The researcher used convenience and judgment sampling to distribute the survey to eight collegiate aviation programs in the United States. A total of 248 (n = 248) participants participated in the survey. The results of the survey indicated that participants cited excessive workload, stress, and sleep-related issues (disturbances and poor quantity) as the most common causes of fatigue. Participants cited drowsiness, loss of concentration, and physical/mental discomfort, including irritation, as symptoms of fatigue. The results also indicated that there was a statistically significant association between enrollment status and a participant’s willingness to fly while fatigued; students from higher enrollment statuses are more willing to fly fatigued. Lastly, the results indicated that age might be used as a predictor for a participant’s willingness to fly while fatigued. Conversely, flight hours cannot be used as a predictor for a participant’s willingness to fly while fatigued.