New Delhi: Air traffic control officers, who work under stressful conditions, will also have fixed duty hours very soon like the pilots and the cabin crews.
Concerned over incidents where the air traffic control officers (ATCOs) have fallen asleep while on duty, aviation regulator DGCA is formulating rules for fixing their duty hours to prevent mistakes while handling flight movements, especially during odd hours, due to fatigue.
"Like the cockpit and cabin crews, who have a Flight Time Duty Limitation (FDTL), we are working on fixed duty hours for ATCOs as they also work under stressful conditions," Arun Mishra, chief of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.
He said presently there are no fixed working hours for the ATCOs and they themselves prepare and follow their rosters.
Mishra was speaking on sidelines of an International seminar on Advancement in Aviation Medicine and Human Fatigue, organised by Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI).
Addressing the seminar, he said that there had been incidents where officers have fallen asleep while being on ATC system.
"These incidents were a buzzing alarm for all of us."
He said that pilots and cabin crew have to travel long hours, in multiple time zones, which disrupts their circadian rhythm and causes sleep deprivation and fatigue.
It also increases risk of accidents, he said. However,he added that once an incident has occurred, it is difficult to establish fatigue as a contributing factor.
Mishra said fatigue can be handled through two broad strategies of prevention and mitigation. Good health and hygiene, sufficient sleep and allowing short naps could be part of fatigue mitigation strategy.
Speaking at the seminar, civil aviation secretary KN Srivastava stressed the need for futher improvement in fatigue management system to make it more efficacious.
Noted cardiologist Naresh Trehan said sleep deprivation affects the neurocoginitive ability of a person. In long haul flights, pilots and cabin crews have to face not only the sleep deprivation but also less intake of oxygen during the flight.
He said a chronic sleep deprived flight crews have to face problems of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes as a sleep debt person tends to eat a lot in order to maintain their energy level.