Not a good beginning for a session of flight test prep. And now, in the practice area, it’s obvious from your uncoordinated control inputs and inattention to altitude that you are just wasting your time. This isn’t like you, so what’s going on?
Don’t think of fatigue as a factor to evaluate only in your pre-launch condition. Even if you are well rested and in fine form for flying, the possibility of fatigue setting in aloft is a risk that needs consideration.
How long do you think you could fly on a given day before fatigue sets in and erodes your physical skills and judgment? Now add moderate or worse turbulence, or another adverse weather surprise, to that flight scenario. Does it change your estimate? Do you have a sense of how fatigue could affect your judgment under challenging circumstances?
The July 25 “Training Tip: Caught on top” related the dangerous difficulties encountered by a pilot trapped above an overcast on a cross-country flight. It was an all-too-familiar example of continued visual flight into deteriorating weather, but the pilot’s written narrative also shared the significant role fatigue played in a deteriorating ability to make decisions.
Preoccupied with fatigue, with a challenging landing ahead, the pilot could not resist a strong desire to terminate the flight quickly. This led to rejecting what probably was the safest option—a 180-degree turn back to a point along the route where a VFR descent was possible, then resuming the original course. Instead, the pilot initiated a harrowing letdown on instruments through clouds.
Fatigue has many definitions and symptoms. A pilot who feels too tired to fly safely is surely experiencing one of the most insidious of those symptoms.