Pilots, Airlines Push For Nap Time

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The practice of catching a nap while serving on the flight deck is not currently approved by the FAA, but citing supporting evidence, pilot unions and airlines say it may be time for the FAA to embrace the idea. British Airways, Qantas and others have for some years allowed one pilot to sleep during the cruise portion of some flights and some studies indicate it makes crew more alert during critical phases of flight. "It may seem counterintuitive to folks in the back of the plane, but it's the right thing to do," Bill Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal. Besides, pilots do nap en route, according to a recent survey of commuter pilots referenced by the Journal, which also stated simply that "pilots say naps not only make sense, but that they also already take them." And fatigue has long been among the top concerns of aviation safety authorities, having been cited as a contributing factor in more than 250 aviation fatalities since 1990.

The strategies supported by the airlines and unions are referred to as controlled napping, and are seen as fatigue-mitigation strategies. Public perception is cited as the biggest obstacle in implementing those strategies. The balance of safety, profitability and work rules makes the issue complex. The FAA is expected to review crew rest rules, and napping is expected to be part of the conversation if not the final regulations.