Introduction: Flight length in aviation refers to the length of time an aircraft is airborne. During a long-haul flight, a jet is airborne from 6 to 12 hours. An ultra-long-haul flight lasts more than 12 hours. Both long-haul and ultra-long-haul flights have physical, psychological, and social effects on the passengers on board precipitated by the environment in the jet. Such an environment has a direct influence on the crew.
A. The Effects of Physical Environment
- One of the effects brought by the physical environment includes fatigue. Research has shown that those with chronic health conditions maybe aggravated by the long hours of travel.
- There are numerous harmful waves and emissions caused by the equipment in airports and planes. Most of them appear due to the screening devices. Flight crews and frequent flyers are at risk of a host of health problems ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease, vision and hearing loss to mental disorders and cognitive decline.
- Frequent long fliers are highly exposed to cosmic rays, which can lead to serious carcinogenic implications.
- Another possible effect could be blood clotting in the legs due to sitting in a crammed position for a long time.
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B. The Psychological Effects
- The jet lag explained above can have far-reaching effects such as sleeplessness, constant fatigue, constipation, and monotony (Palinkas, 2001). The mentioned effects can cause stress.
- The crew onboard can experience stress caused by the demands of the bored passengers.
- Long flights also cause relationship strains in families and marriages, which can also be a source of stress as well as psychological and emotional instability.
- There is also the flight anxiety and fears that may result from the previous news on the incidences of attack, hijacking, or crash. Long hauls can compound this anxiety.
C. The Social Effects
- The plane occupancy differs as people are of various interests and from diverse backgrounds. A sitting arrangement that puts one close to a drug addict can be a nuisance and cause unnecessary discomfort.
- Most of the seats in the planes have no specific modifications to suit persons with disabilities.
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The Effects on the Crew
- The crew is predisposed to fatigue. It has been cited as the cause of many accidents and incidents in the past.
- In all the aviation accidents in 2006, fatigue made 3.8% of the cases reported by the pilots to the Aviation accidents report system (AAARS). Fatigue made up to 21% of the cause.
- Another problem is the jet lag that is common with long-haul flights.
- Mental ill-health was found to be associated with the lack of autonomy at work, fatigue, and flying.
Conclusion: Long-haul and ultra-long-haul flights present challenges that are physical, psychological, and social in nature. They affect the passengers and the crew alike. Serious steps should be taken in the architectural design of the planes so that recycling of air is reduced. In addition, plane ventilation should be enhanced. Moreover, civil aviation authorities all over the world should be encouraged to consider adopting the policy of the US government. It entails the aviation department subjecting its crew members to a thorough screening and selection as well as a program of a psychiatric check to determine suitability.