Caffeine in Aviation

Caffeine in Coffee

As a result of fatigue and inadequate sleep many airline pilots and air traffic controllers that work in late shifts or for long periods result in drinking coffee intensely. The flavour of the drink is from seeds that are found in a plant called the Coffea plant. Coffee has an energizing effect that comes from one of its components that is Caffeine; the amount of caffeine in every coffee cup can vary between 3mg to 2160mg but most coffee drinks contain around 200mg of caffeine (Caffeine Content of Drinks, n.d.).

Caffeine in the human body

Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant; it temporarily reduces drowsiness and increases awareness of the human being. Caffeine can be a dangerous and addictive drug; it works in the body in the same effect of amphetamines, cocaine and heroin in the brain though its harms are less. Addiction to caffeine comes from the excess amount any person drinks in a day (Caffeine, n.d.).

Effects of High Doses

Consuming high amounts of caffeine in a day can cause many problems to any person; in the aviation industry Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers drink beverages that contain caffeine to give them a boost of energy to continue doing their job normally without any causes of sleepiness or fatigue. Being unaware of the consequences of the excess amount of caffeine in the body can harm the Pilot or Air Traffic Controller, drinking more than 300mg of caffeine in one dose or in a short period of time may put the person in danger, many symptoms will appear on the person as he will encounter:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Mild involuntary trembling
  • Increasing sensitivity to touch, pain and any sensory stimulations (Boulenger & Uhder, 1982).

Performance of Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers

Consumption of an excess amount (more than 300mg) of caffeine in one day will have a major effect in the performance of the Pilot and Air Traffic Controller; the nature of the job will demand for a high volume of accuracy and attention so that there is no room for an error or misunderstanding to occur (Antunano & Mohler, 1988). Although caffeine will provide a boost of energy, nevertheless, it has many side effects that will disturb the Pilot or the Air Traffic Controller such as the blood pressure can rise 3 to 14 millimetres of mercury, which is particularly harmful for pilots flying at high altitudes where the there is no oxygen in the blood. Another side effect is Dehydration; it is caused by taking any amount of caffeine, it is recommended to consume about 8 oz of water or liquids to replace the lost fluids in the body (Rist, 2010).


1. Antunano, M. J., & Mohler, S. R. (1988). Caffeine Can Pick You Up of Let You Down. Flight Safety Foundation, Human Factors & Aviation Medicine, Vol. 35 No.2.
2. Boulenger, J., & Uhder, T. (1982). Caffeine Consumption and Anxiety Preliminary results of a survey comparing patients with anxiety-like disorders and normal controls. Bull.
3. Caffeine. (n.d.). Retrieved from Global Health & Fitness:
4. Caffeine Content of Drinks. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy Friend:
5. Rist, J. (2010, June 4). The Effects of Caffeine On The Body. Retrieved from Live Strong:

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors

Ali Hassan

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