Sleep deprivation because of social media use by a pilot had caused a crash of an Indian Air Force fighter jet in 2013, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said on Friday in a stunning revelation. Seeking a system to identify if pilots had slept enough before taking off on sorties, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said spending hours on social media sites at night is leading to sleep deprivation among pilots.
"Flying sorties when the temperature goes beyond 40 degree celsius is discouraged and so flight briefings take place early," he said, speaking at the 57th Indian Society of Aerospace Medicine conference organised in Bengaluru.
"Everybody appears to be spending long hours on social media, late nights. Most flight briefings, sometimes, are as early as 6 am and pilots haven't had enough sleep," he said.
"We had an unfortunate air crash at Uttarlai (near Barmer in Rajasthan) in the year 2013 that resulted because of continuous sleep deprivation for a number of days. This is something which is a new challenge for us because of the changes in our society," he said.
To address the problem, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa urged the Institute of Aerospace Medicine to create a system to identify whether pilots had enough sleep before flying sorties.
"Earlier if a pilot had one drink too many, the bar man would know. If he failed to notice, the others would know and he would be laid off flying for the day. Today we even have breath analysers," he said.
"Therefore, we need a system where one can find out if a pilot had enough sleep," he added.
He also said though social media has become an indispensable communication platform, it is taking away interpersonal and communication skills.