Warplanes: January 16, 2001


million.--Stephen V Cole

B-2's have a crew of two, and fly missions lasting 30 hours or more. To accomplish this, the two pilots have developed their own techniques for dealing with the long hours and effects of sleep deprivation.

@ It helped if pilots got a lot of sleep in the two or three days before these 30 hour missions. Also stay away from alcohol during that time, as booze can interfere with sleep later on.

@ Pilots quickly discovered that there was enough space behind their seats for a ten dollar chaise lounge (purchased at Wal-Mart). Since pilots are up for at least four hours before they even take off, they start taking turns on the chaise lounge after they are airborne for about twelve hours. Pilots would get two to four hours sleep at a time. 

@ Bring snacks. Munchies, cookies and the like, eaten periodically in small quantities will keep energy levels up. Soft drinks with caffeine also help. The B-2 also has an electrical outlet where you can hook up one of those drink heaters for hot chocolate, soup and instant coffee. But avoid the caffeine a few hours before you plan to sleep. 

@ When you hit the chaise lounge, get comfortable. Take your boots off and use earplugs if the roar of the engines keeps you awake. Use a blanket or your flight jacket if you are cold. 

@ If you can't get to sleep, don't try and force it. Try reading a technical manual. If you are at all tired, that should knock you right out.

Pilots found that napping was essential. Those that tried to stay up through the entire flight discovered that the flight surgeon was right; going without sleep for too long has the same effect as being drunk. Intoxicated people should not drive B-2s, especially during the frequent in-flight refueling or on the actual bombing run. Landings can be a bit tricky


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