Environmental Conditions and Psychophysiological Response of Pilots and Flight Attendants in Commercial Long-Haul Flights

Michael Trimmel *
Medical University of Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15, A-1095 Vienna, Austria.

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Trimmel et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Correspondence: * Address correspondence to this author at the Medical University of Vienna, Kinderspitalgasse 15, A-1095 Vienna, Austria; Tel: +436648001634911; Fax: +43142779647; E-mail:


The impact of environmental conditions as found in aircraft on pilots and flight attendants was investigated by the EU-project HEACE. Measurements of 6 long-haul rotations, three Vienna–Delhi (7-h flights) and three Vienna– Tokyo (12-h flights with a rest of 3 hours for the crew during flights), were investigated in cooperation with Austrian Airlines on board of aircraft of the Airbus type. Besides the recordings of environmental conditions (air temperature, relative humidity, sound pressure level), also physiological measures and ratings were collected on 12 flights in 13 pilots and 64 flight attendants. The electrocardiogram was recorded continuously, BP, SpO2, and ratings (tiredness, health symptoms) were collected as spot measurements up to three times during flights and as baseline measures for which also heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (pNN50) was computed. Analyses showed a great variety in environmental conditions and human response depending on flight duration, destination, area in aircraft, and task demands. Extreme observations include a temperature range from 18.5–27.7°C, 0% RH in the cockpit, 88 dB(B) in the rear of aircraft, HR of 135 during service, and 50% of SpO2 measures in pilots during cruising were 􀀁 94% oxygen saturation. Ratings of dry eyes/skin symptoms and tiredness are increased with flight duration. Results indicate that mean values reflect only very small aspects of the diversity in flight conditions and human response.

Keywords: Aviation, high altitude, environment, heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, alertness, noise, humidity.