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From: tedled@aya.yale.edu

Subject: FAT = FATigue

Date: 2011Apr 23 11:26:44 AM CDT

To: oped@nytimes.com


Dear Editors:

     You published "Solution for Fatigued Aviation Workers Eludes FAA" By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS this morning, April 23, 2011

... here is my view of this issue for your consideration ... feel free to edit it as you wish:

FAT = FATigue

Now we have the danger of sleeping controllers to add to the danger of sleepy pilots.   

And the AP reports that "Solution for Fatigued Aviation Workers Eludes FAA".

The FAA already knows that pilot-fatigue can cause errors that result in accidents; so it has proposed new rules to regulate duty&rest requirements (FAA-2009-1093).   

But, like most other aviation "experts", they poo-poo the idea that the root cause of FATigue is FAT. Therefore the proposed rest-rules can not prevent fatigue because they ignore the effects of fat-foods on alertness, visual-acuity&clarity & reaction-time.

Ordinary folks know that a heavy holiday meal makes us sleepy.  Flight attendants notice that passengers doze after eating.  A common sedative for insomniacs is a glass of milk.  Savvy business execs feed fancy foods to visitors to make them drowsey during after-lunch negotiations.   Boston Celtic star Bill Russell always emptied his stomach before big games so as to be fully alert and focused on his work instead of having his attention diverted to a queasy belly.  We also know that the CO2 bubbles in carbonated beverages displace the oxygen that our bodies need to be alert.   

Fats are oils which clog&block & suffocate brains, lungs, hearts, eyes, ears, etc, which need oxygenated-water-blood. Every pilot knows that oil & water don't mix. Oily-blood is just as harmful to bodies as watery-fuel is to engines.  

Fat eyeballs & brains & muscles react relatively slowly to changes when scanning between (far)skies&runways & (near)instruments&charts.

No matter how much rest, anyone who eats fatty foods like butter, bacon&eggs, cheeseburgers or fries/chips, etc before/during flight or controller duty is not as alert nor as clearheaded as they need to be.  And carbonated drinks also increase oxygen-starvation.


This is especially true at marginal runways like the old St. Thomas HST/STT where AA625 from JFK crashed on Apr27,1976. NTSB blamed pilot-error. As a video reporter for WBNB-TV, I saw that 727-123 burn and I attended & reported on every session of the official NTSB hearings. I know that the Captain was fat. His slow thinking got him behind the fast-changing emergency that caused him to touch-down long&hot & bounce & float. He then tried to go-around, but 727turbines need ~7secs to spool-up. After 5secs, he knew he couldn't take-off without hitting a hill ahead, so he shut-down power and over-ran the runway. 37Dead.

The only real pilot & controller fatigue-accident preventative is for pilots & controllers to stop eating fatty-foods & carbonated drinks before&during duty. 


The FAA should immediately issue a public alert to all pilots & controllers to be aware of the link between foods & fatigue.

Then the FAA should take 3 steps to help this process. First by generating modern scientific evidence by experimental body-testing the effects of various foods and food-combos on pilot & controller alertness, agility, reaction-speed & situational-judgement. Second, develop & implement recurrent pilot & controller training based on the results of those body-food tests so that pilots & controllers learn how to prevent fatigue. Third, require body-fat measurements during physicals for all pilots & controllers & ban fat-pilot ops & fat-controller duty-time at critical airports. Maybe even require pilots & controllers to pass a quick reaction-time test before duty.  Extreme? Maybe? But astronauts do it and they aren't responsible for hundreds of passengers.

Once upon a time, most believed that the Earth was flat. 

And most once believed that heavy machines could not fly.

Now we need to know the truth that fat-foods & CO2-drinks cause fatigue.

Piloting&ControllingWhileFat (PWF) (CWF) is like DrivingWhileDrunk (DWD) (DUI). 

It's time to realize this fact. 

For all our sakes.

By Ted Ledbetter

2397 County Road 103
2397 Trainer Wuest Road
Blanco, Texas 78606

Ledbetter is a retired LittonSystems avionics flight-test engineer & private-pilot & broadcaster (WBNB-TV10 , St.Thomas & WCQR-TV50, Washington) who has tested his own body for 25years to determine the factors affecting his own performance.   He is now webmaster of www.bodypilot.org & can be contacted at tedled@aya.yale.edu.     He is also the older brother of the late Les Ledbetter, who was a Times reporter, columnist & editor.