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Cassie Hilditch receives the 2023 William E. Collins Award for her paper on pilot fatigue during COVID-19

In May 2023, Cassie Hilditch, from NASA's Human Systems Integration Division, was awarded the 2023 William E. Collins Award, which is presented to the author of the "Outstanding Human Factors Publication of the Year" by the Aerospace Medical Association. The prestigious award was given for the 2022 paper titled "Fatigue, Schedules, Sleep, and Sleepiness in U.S. Commercial Pilots During COVID-19", which describes the wide-ranging impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on commercial pilot fatigue and sleepiness. Although it could be assumed that decreased flying capacity and duty hours due to the pandemic would lead to less fatigue risk, Cassie’s research revealed some surprising results. After surveying 669 commercial pilots in late 2020 and following up in early 2021, Cassie was able to determine that even though pilots logged fewer flight hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, pilots reported an increase in sleepiness due to a wide variety of factors associated with the pandemic. Some factors identified include reduced access to nutritional food and exercise facilities, stress, distractions, and scheduling uncertainties. These results highlighted the need to monitor fatigue as pilots navigated their way out of the pandemic and back to normal operations.

Cassie is a member of NASA’s Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory, which studies the relationship between sleep loss, circadian desynchrony, cognitive function, and alertness. The primary goal of the lab is to improve safety, human performance and contribute to the overall success of NASA missions. With nearly two decades of human sleep research experience, ranging from tightly-controlled inpatient studies, to logistically-challenging field studies across a range of population groups, industries, and countries, Cassie is passionate about fatigue research to help discover and develop countermeasures to fatigue-related performance impairment.

Commercial pilots in the cockpit of a passenger jet
NASA Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory researcher Cassie Hilditch . Credit- Cassie Hilditch
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Last Updated: May 26, 2023