|- According to recent
reports Danish Air Traffic Authorities have recorded a fourfold
increase in the number of reported pilot errors due to fatigue.
The number of errors has
sharply in the last three years. In 2008 there were eight Danish error
events compared to only two 10 years ago. In 2011 (by mid April) the number
has already risen to four.
New EU rules on working hours,
forcing the pilots to fly 60 week hours per week, were suggested as the
cause. However, there may be other reasons:
The smoking ban, which since
2007 has prohibited smoking pilots from smoking in flight, has an unfortunate
side effect: It reduces the smoking pilot's concentration and stamina significantly
- with the risk of a fatal error.
Smokers are more alert
This is proven in scientific
studies: Smokers are able to stay awake and maintain concentration many
hours longer than non-smokers - provided that they can smoke (1).
Smokers however, do worse
than non-smokers in the tests when they cannot smoke.
Already in 1967 six-hour
tests were conducted in simulators with smokers, nonsmokers and "abstinent"
smokers. The experiments showed that "abstinent" smokers fared worst, while
smokers in turn fared best of all after three hours, where non-smokers'
concentration broke down.
In 1976 proposals were put
forward in the United States to prohibit pilots from smoking on airplanes
for security reasons. The idea was dropped when the chief scientist behind
the simulation experiments, Dr. Norman Heimstra, stated that research showed
clearly that a chain-smoking pilot would be the best to handle crisis situations
in the air.
Many recent studies have
confirmed this. Today we know that nicotine is the cause. Nicotine is highly
suitable for work, which was documented in 2010 in a large analysis of
48 high quality nicotine tests. The analysis was conducted by the U.S.
government's National Institute on Drug Abuse (2). It is available at URL:
Researchers conclude that
nicotine enhances the brain's performance significantly in the areas of
speed, focus, attention, working memory and motor skills.
A boost to the brain
The positive "boost" of the
brain occurs not only from smoking but also from the use of smokeless tobacco,
nicotine patches and chewing gum - but not as much as from smoking, which
is clearly the most powerful method of nicotine delivery.
Naturally, no one can demand
that pilots must take nicotine or smoke to improve flight safety, but there
are strong indications that the increase in pilot error may be linked to
the smoking ban.
We urge that the relationship
There is no doubt that greater
air safety is obtained by allowing pilots to smoke, which may be more important
than the moral satisfaction of knowing that the flight deck is non-smoking.