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Pilots keep falling asleep with hundreds of pax aboard

October 1, 2013 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59A disturbing story about two pilots suffering from “severe fatigue” and falling asleep simultaneously, mid-flight on a British-operated passenger plane, has led to even more alarming revelations.

According to a survey carried out by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), more than half of British airline pilots admit to having fallen asleep in the cockpit.

The BALPA survey found that 56% of 500 commercial pilots admitted to being asleep on the flight deck. Of those, nearly one in three said they had woken to find their co-pilot also asleep.

Sleeping and sleepy pilots have been implicated in fatal air crashes. HH250x250-2

The revelations came on the eve of a European Union vote on rule changes which could override British regulations and let airlines make pilots work up to 110 hours in a two-week period, more than the current 95-hour limit. At night they could be expected to fly for up to 11 hours, against the current 10-hour limit.

In the face of such evidence, the European Parliament committee in charge of the hearing yesterday rejected the proposed changes to pilots’ flight and rest times.

The initial disclosure about the two sleeping pilots was obtained after a Freedom of Information request by Data News and reported by the BBC. If passengers feel worried, that’s understandable.

One pilot said he and his colleague had had only five hours’ sleep over the previous two nights.

The case of the two pilots sleeping in the cockpit at the same time happened last month (August 2013) and while Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) did not identify where it occurred, the CAA confirmed that hundreds of passengers were likely to have been aboard the Airbus A330.

One of the pilots awoke from his scheduled 20-minute rest break to find the second pilot asleep.

BALPA said the claim was “no surprise” as the problem often goes unreported.

It’s certainly not the first time such events have occurred. In 2011, the captain and co-pilot of a major British airline both fell asleep at the same time for up to 10 minutes.

A study by a team from University College London (UCL) found that Britain’s airline pilots are suffering “significant fatigue”.

Disturbingly, the UCL study revealed that “one in five pilots reported that their abilities were compromised in flight more than once a week”.

No passenger wants a tired pilot at the controls – let alone a sleeping one. But it happens. Data recorders aboard an Air India flight that crashed in 2010, killing 158 passengers, caught the sound of heavy snoring before the crash.

The Hindustan Times said that the co-pilot was heard repeatedly warning the pilot to abort the landing and go around. It is believed the pilot slept through more than half the flight and woke up disoriented when it was time to land.

After overshooting the hilltop runway, the B737-800 operating the Air India Express flight from Dubai to Mangalore in southern India plunged over a cliff and exploded in flames. The last words captured by the recorders as the plane crashed were those of one of the pilots, who had apparently just woken up, saying, “Oh my God.”

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Think of the reaction if the case is brought to the attention of the general [public!
    What about the idea of passengers committee organized by pax on each night long haul flt legally agreed upon by the airline union?
    2 of the group of 10 would in turn check the flying deck to make sure that the pilots are awake, also using a breathalyzer
    “for security reason”

    Ciao, mario

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