The Role of Emotional Fatigue in the Germanwings Crash

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The flight carried passenger from Spain in Barcelona-El Prat Airport to Germany in Dusseldorf Airport. Germanwings was the operator of the flight where the aircraft crashed on March 24th 2015 in French Alps. The crash resulted in the killing of all the six crew members and the 144 passengers. The French aviation investigators indicates that the death of these people occurred because of the action of Andreas Lubitz who was the first officer that locked the captain from the flight deck (Freed, 2016). Reports indicates that Lubitz had flow with several instructors and pilots prior to the crash and he had not indicated any issues with his mental health (Freed, 2016). However, he had been seeing private physicians for some time prior to the crash, which expresses concerns on sleep disorders and vision problems. Further, he had anti-depressants prescribed for his use.

Role of emotional fatigue in crash

            There is a need to ensure that the airline pilots’ mental health is monitored regularly. Such would have contributed in avoiding the Germanwings crash. Fatigue contributed towards the increase in the risk of the crash. Such is because when the pilot was calling for Lubitz to open the door, he could not open and the sound of him breathing can be heard. The implication is that Lubitz was asleep because of sleep (Yen et al., 2005). Further, the pilot got emotional panicked after realizing that the door was closed. Such an emotional reaction denied him the chance to devise or develop new methods and strategies, which he could use to ensure the safety of the flight without causing any harm or danger to the occupants (Farquhar, 2017).

            Emotional fatigue also triggered Lubitz to get out of control by not considering the safety of the aircraft and take matters on him. As such, he could not hear when the pilot was knocking the door or what was being done to achieve success in solving the problems and matters that were facing the flight (Waclawski & Noone, 2017). Further, there was trouble in concentration on the part of the pilot regarding the tragedy that was facing the aircraft. Such included a slow time for the reaction. These factors made it complex for the flight crew and the pilot to strategies on ways, which could avoided the crash and saved the lives of people. 

            Examination of the emotional state of the pilots prior to the operation of the craft is essential. It seems that in this case, such was not done, which made judgment making a common problem for the flight (Yen et al., 2005). Therefore, the high presence of emotional fatigue for the pilots made them unable to control the situation, which was present in their hands regarding the flight that was crashing. Hence, the disaster was experienced, but it could have been avoided if the pilots were in good emotional state.

Prevalence of emotional fatigue in the global aviation industry

            In the aviation industry, fatigue is an essential factor, which is linked to the shift in the work and the loss of sleep. As such, long cycles of duty make pilots to become inefficient, careless, and inattentive (Muir, 2001). The aircrew experiences sleep disturbance and loss, irregular work patterns, transmeridian flight and other issues related to the work. Hence, fatigue is considered as a major of source of several accidents that are experienced in the aviation industry (Waclawski & Noone, 2017). The problem faces all types and sizes of the aircrafts that in service and it is not affected by status, training, professionalism, or motivation (Rosekind & Gander, 1996).

            Fatigue degrades all the aspects of the aviation performance, which include memory, decision making, selective attention, judgement, mood, fixation, and concentration. Studies indicates that the requirement for sleep is between 8 and 9 hours in a night to avoid issues of fatigue. Non-shift workers tend to sleep more as compared to the shift workers (Parris, 2003). Therefore, pilots that cross the time zones have the capability of developing the cumulative sleep deprivation and the continuous disruption may trigger physical symptoms where these pilots report bowel and gastrointestinal problems.

            Research indicates that pilots no longer trust the airlines that require them to work as per the flying hours that are legal (Lee & Kim, 2018). These pilots have a higher level of making errors because of being tired. Flight crews in the low-cost airlines also get subjected to working within their discretion period to overcome the unforeseen circumstances that include the delays in aircraft (Kosnik, Brown & Maund, 2007).

            Reis, Canhao and Mestre (2013) argue that 71 percent of the United Kingdom pilots reported fatigue. Among these pilots, 81 percent of them indicated that the fatigue worsened for over 2 years. The conclusion of this study indicates that fatigue was at a high level among the pilots. The estimated incidence of fatigue is 103 per 1000 pilots on annual basis. However, the fatigues differ based on the nature of flight as either long-haul or short-haul.


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August 04, 2023



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