How Do Pilots Stay Awake in the Cockpit?
The solution worked so well that PilotsFriend is now available to anyone, and is enjoyed across Canada by energetic professionals of all stripes in need of a healthy, natural boost. But what did pilots do to stay awake on long flights before we came along?
The Early Days
In the early days of aviation, flights were relatively short. In 1908 Louis Blériot made a record-breaking flight across the English Channel that took a whopping (for the time) 36 minutes. The first non-stop transatlantic flight took place in 1919 with John Alcock and Arthur Brown travelling from St. John’s Newfoundland to Clifton, Ireland in 16 hours. Alcock and Brown were able to trade shifts at the controls in their modified Vickers Vimy bomber, however, it's quite possible that battling snowstorms and frozen carburetors, and navigating by the stars kept them on their toes throughout their adventure.
When Charles Lindbergh made his historic solo, 3,610-mile flight from New York to Paris in 1927, he had said that “staying awake was his biggest challenge”, although he was flying without radio gear (too heavy for the flight), and lacked the skills to navigate by the sun and stars. “Lucky” Lindbergh said that he managed to stay awake on his long journey by sipping from a small thermos of coffee, blasting his face with cold air from the cockpit window, and resting one eye at a time.
By the time that larger, more robust planes were able to make trans-Pacific crossings, flyers like Charles Kingford Smith were able to fly in 2 person shifts and were able to stay alert with coffee and tea.
Freeze-Dried & Pharmaceutical Flying
After the outbreak of WWII, many pilots started bringing freeze-dried coffee packets on long flights. Instant coffee was a new technology for the time, and pilots often swallowed the crystals with gulps of cold water to help keep them awake.
Around the same time, military doctors in the United States began prescribing amphetamines to pilots. Known colloquially as “go pills”, the use of amphetamines in cockpits has been controversial. While only offered in low doses (5mg) on flights ranging up to 30 hours, the United States Air Force has been looking at drugs like Modanifil, a treatment designed for narcoleptic patients, to keep aircrews alert.
However modern-day military flight crews are often prescribed proper scheduling, strategic napping, and sound sleep, all monitored by a computerized tool that will help commanders predict the alertness of personnel in various scenarios.
Healthier & Safer Alternatives
Today, civilian flight crews have many more creature comforts than their pioneering predecessors and fly longer than their ancestors could ever have imagined.
The current record holder for the longest commercial flight is a massive 9,534 mile, 21-hour flight from Newark, N.J. to Singapore. Pilots at the helm of ultra-long hauls are very careful about their sleeping patterns before takeoff, and often pilot and co-pilot are teamed up with another pair of pilots that take over around the halfway point.
The aircraft on these long flights are also built with safety in mind, with sleeping berths for the pilots and crew, which will see pilots able to sleep for up to 6 hours while one of their fellow pilots takes the controls.
At PilotsFriend, we’re constantly in awe of the men and women who take to the skies every day to keep our world moving, and our all-natural health tonic is crafted to keep them flying longer and healthier. If it can work in the high-intensity world of the cockpit, imagine what it can do for your day-to-day activity. Check out our story, and find a PilotsFriend near you for the next time you need a little extra intensity.