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On the plane, in all phases of his flight, pilots and cabin crew are exposed to various types of stress.

Stress in Aviation

Stress is the greatest in critical moments of the flight, i.e. during takeoff and landing. For pilots and other crew members, even under normal conditions, the aviation environment includes stressors such as noise, vibration, atmospheric pressure or overload. Fatigue and disturbances in the sleep cycle can also be stressful, especially for those crew members who change the time zone several times. In addition, studies have shown that the captain's personality type also affects the sense of stress on the aircraft.


During the survey, 24 three-person flight crews performed standard line procedures, as well as participated in crisis situations, in the Boeing 737 simulator; then they were tested for stress.


Crews who made the fewest errors reported less stress than crews who made these mistakes more. Crews with the fewest errors were usually carried out by captains who were classified in the study report as having "the right characteristics" (for example: they were referred to as "active, warm, confident, ambitious and preferring excellence and challenges").


Other captains were classified as having "inappropriate characteristics" (for example: they were described as arrogant, authoritarian, emotionally insensitive, impatient, irritating, preferring perfection and challenges, but having limited personal sensitivity) or "not having the proper characteristics" (for example, they were described as "non-permanent with average interpersonal skills, low self-confidence, low desire to perform difficult tasks and low desire for excellence").


Sources of stress


The causes of stress are known as stressors.


Physical stressors:


These stresses increase the load on the staff and make him uncomfortable in his work environment:


  •  High temperature in the cockpit / on the aircraft increases sweat and heart rate, causing overheating of the body.

  •  Low temperature causes a feeling of coldness, weakness and lethargy.

  • Changes in atmospheric pressure caused by turbulence exert unusual overload forces on the body and make it difficult to control the aircraft.

  • Vibrations transmitted to the body from the airplane through the seat make it difficult to read maps and navigation devices.

  • Noise levels in a typical cockpit range between 75-80 dB. Everything above causes stress and makes concentration difficult and forces the pilot to make effort to hear ATC instructions.

  • Poor workplace lighting makes it difficult to read technical data and manuals while working on the aircraft, and the use of inclined flashlights is also insufficient, which increases the tendency to overlook something important.

  • Poor visibility due to intense fog and traveling, looking only at meteorological instruments.


Mental stressors:

  • Work-related stress factors before the mission can increase the arousal due to concerns, but too many of them can cause excessive fears and ineffective operation.

  • Financial problems such as inevitable bankruptcy, recession, loans and mortgages to pay off.

  • Marital problems related to divorce or strained relationships due to persistent quarrels.

  • Interpersonal problems with superiors and colleagues due to misunderstandings, persistent rivalry and envy.

Psychological stresses:

  • Flying with a bad mood, which causes the body to use more energy to fight the disease, and thus has less energy to perform important tasks.

  • Lack of proper meals also results in a lack of sufficient energy and causes symptoms such as headache and tremor.

  • Lack of sleep, tiredness - the pilot is unable to maintain performance standards for a long time when trying to stay awake for long hours

  • Conflict distribution patterns affect the circadian cycle of the body and lead to performance impairment.

  • Long hours of work without any breaks, especially at busy airports when operating multiple aircraft departing and arriving at intersecting and parallel runways.


However, it should be noted that a given situation can bring varying degrees of difficulty for different people. The situation can be a stressor for one person and a "normal" one for the other. In addition, a stressor can cause stress in the same person when in a different position, i.e. stressors, which he has always had an influence on, suddenly overwhelm him because of a possibly worse situation in the family.

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