Tom Caska, a UNSW Aviation Honours student publishes the research he conducted during his Honours year under the supervision of Dr Brett Molesworth in The International Journal of Aviation Studies.

Caska, T. J., & Molesworth, B. R. C. (2007). The effects of low dose caffeine on pilot performance. International Journal of Applied Aviation Studies, 7, (2), 244-255.

Participants view breaking visual on approach
Participants view breaking visual on approach


Pilots often use caffeine, in the form of coffee, during critical phases of flight to enhance performance. This study investigates the effects of low dose caffeine on pilots’ performance during a crucial segment of flight. Thirty pilots were randomly divided into three groups (0mg/kg, 1mg/kg, & 3mg/kg of caffeine). The pilots performed two simulated instrument landing systems approaches. Caffeine was administered between the two flights and pilots’ performances were measured and compared. The results failed to reveal any differences between the three groups. In contrast, a group by sleep interaction was significant.
The results suggest for a normal well-rested person, caffeine at relatively low doses, similar to that used by pilots, has no measurable effect on performance. In contrast, for a person not well rested, caffeine in low doses noticeably improves performance. Results are discussed from an applied perspective and alternate methods of enhancing performance are reviewed. Recommendations are made for future studies in this field.

View the complete UNSW Aviation list of publications at the Publications webpage.